SRUC reveals plan to move three out of six campuses

Janet Swadling foresees sites such as Barony, Dumfries, moving
Janet Swadling foresees sites such as Barony, Dumfries, moving
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Proposals for major changes – including a move for three of its six campuses – have been ­revealed by the SRUC, Scotland’s rural college.

Speaking this week amid a series of meetings to discuss the far-reaching plans with staff and stakeholders, the acting SRUC chief executive, Janet Swadling, said she was “very optimistic” the college’s proposals for delivering its three key areas into the future were being well-received.

Stating that the “Scottish ­system” – with its integration of education, research and consultancy services – remained core to the college’s future, she said the plans for change were ­expected to come into place over the next three to four years:

“We wanted to get everyone on board at an early stage in the proceedings,” said Swadling, “to allow them to be fully involved in the planning process.”

The campus moves could see the current establishments at King’s Buildings in Edinburgh, Barony College in Dumfries and Craibstone, outside Aberdeen, all moving to new sites.

Although the moves would have substantial, but as yet undisclosed capital costs for the college, Swadling said a number of funding streams, such as the Scottish Funding Council and the Agri-tech Strategy fund, were likely sources of finance.

And although negotiations for closer links with the University of Edinburgh were still under way – and the findings of the Kinnaird report and the Scottish Government’s review on the procurement of advisory services still to be disclosed – Swadling expressed confidence the plans would form the core of the college’s vision for the ­future whatever the outcomes.

With a “scoping study” in progress, the Edinburgh move is currently the most advanced, with a new site at Bush Estate being the likely location for a new campus. Swadling said a ­decision was expected by the end of the year, with the chosen outcome in place within the next four years. She said Bush Estate offered a tie-in with SRUC researchers already working at the Roslin Institute and other world-leading research organisations located there.

In the North-east, one option is moving the current site at Craibstone, which is being encroached by housing and ring-road developments, to a new campus at Thainstone mart – a proposal which gained the support of the ANM group’s chairman, John McIntosh, who said it would help SRUC work more closely with the industry.

In the South-west, plans could see teaching eventually move from Barony Campus to a new, modern facility alongside the existing SRUC research and ­consultancy activity at the ­Crichton Campus.

The acting chief said that this would allow SRUC to build on the Barony heritage while the new centre – likely to be linked with another local education provider as well as with local authority and commercial ­partners – would give staff improved facilities.

Swadling was also keen to stress that full commitment was still given to the college’s other sites at Riverside in Ayr, Elmwood in Cupar and Oatridge in West Lothian as well as the many consultancy offices across the whole of Scotland.

“We are extremely positive about SRUC’s future and about the impact our work will have now and in the decades ahead,” she said.