Build-up to Scots 'super campus' has been rough
IT IS being described as the biggest college project in the UK, possibly Europe, and will redraw the map of further education in Scotland.
But it has been a long process. For more than a decade, talk of merging Glasgow's colleges has been mooted, considered and often rejected.
Back in the 1990s Stow College, Nautical College and Central College of Commerce gathered in Scotland's biggest city around the merger table – but the plan came to nothing.
Even Anniesland in the west of the city and Clydebank outside Glasgow's boundary had considered a marriage at one point but that too failed to materialised. In the mid-1990s, however, Glasgow College of Building and Printing finally tied the knot with the Food Technology College a couple of streets away.
Now, with the confetti of that match blown away, the newly formed Metropolitan College is marching down the aisle again. This time with Central College of Commerce (neatly situated between the two) and Nautical College a hop, skip and jump away on the opposite side of the River Clyde, joining to create a 300 million polygamous partnership set to open in 2014.
However, merger talks have always been a bumpy ride. Stow had been part of the merger talks but pulled out of the plan at the prenuptial agreement stage and it remains independent.
Situated a little further to the north of the city, its geographical position meant it was perhaps not as natural a partner in a merger which has been born out of a need to replace crumbling buildings. But the college merger table is a well-worn piece of furniture in Glasgow; it has seen more discussion break-downs than successes over the decades.
Years ago the Building and Printing and Food Technology Colleges were affiliated to Glasgow Caledonian University, a former polytechnic, but the then Scottish Office had balked at a formal merger.
The one constant has been pressure from the Scottish Funding Council, which like an ageing parent, has sought to drag these horses together, even if it hasn't been able to make them drink from the same pool.
A key concern has been Glasgow's ageing college building estate. The Allan Glen's building on Cathedral Street, which will form 80 per cent of the new "super-campus", is a former school and is earmarked for demolition under the plans. The iconic Building and Printing "tower" on North Hanover Street can also expect to be disposed of eventually. And a new state-of-the-art marine centre is due to open soon on the Clyde.
Commerce principal and principal designate of the new institution, expected to be named City of Glasgow College, is Paul Little.
He said: "The three-way merger has never been attempted before in Scotland.
"They are all leading colleges in Scotland within very specialist areas, so that brings its own dynamic when you are trying to merge very strong cultures and brands. I often describe this project as metropolitan in scale, international in outlook, cosmopolitan in feel and individual in approach.
"This project, will be teaching one in ten of all college students in Scotland with between 40-60,000 students, 1,500-2,000 staff and we are estimating over the lifetime of this new building that we will impact on the lives of six million students."
Currently there are ten buildings over six sites and, while plans are being finalised, 80 per cent will be on Cathedral Street and 20 per cent on the riverside. Mr Little says eventually it will be all new-build on Cathedral Street and at least 97 per cent at the river.
Due diligence has been completed and no impediments found. An all-staff conference attempted to bring all the future colleagues together though there are concerns from unions surrounding redundancy fears.
Now the project has submitted a Proposal of Application Notice to Glasgow City Council and is conducting public consultation prior to formally applying for planning permission.
That will continue over the next 12 weeks with public viewing of the designs available on Wednesday, 30 June at the new Marine Skills Centre at the Nautical College, and Buchanan Galleries shopping centre on Thursday, 1 July with opportunities for the public to give feedback and comment on the plans before they are submitted.
Iain Marley, project director for New Campus Glasgow, said: "This is the biggest educational project in the UK."
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