A project to merge Shetland College UHI, North Atlantic Fisheries College (NAFC) Marine Centre and Train Shetland has been given the go-ahead, despite union concerns.
The new college for Shetland – Shetland UHI – announced that a decision was reached on the controversial project yesterday.
It marks the first time in Scotland that a college has been transferred from public ownership to a private company.
In a statement from the college, they said: “Shetland UHI brings together staff and resources to offer tertiary education, commercial training and research in Shetland and beyond.
“All the services and expertise offered by Shetland College UHI, NAFC Marine Centre UHI and Train Shetland will continue to be provided by Shetland UHI and there are ambitious plans for expanding provision into new areas in line with Shetland’s economic development.”
The move comes despite numerous concerns raised by the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers.
In March last year, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union urgently contacted the Scottish Government’s minister for further and higher education, Richard Lochhead, to raise their concerns over the college being run under private ownership.
A meeting was arranged but subsequently cancelled due to coronavirus.
The EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan also wrote a letter in October 2019 to then deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for education John Swinney.
‘Detrimental to the security of educational provision’
Mr Flannagan wrote: “This move would be detrimental to the security of educational provision in Shetland, with delivery being undertaken by a company limited by guarantee which would not be subject to the same governance arrangements in place for incorporated colleges in Scotland.”
Mr Flannagan also warned that appropriate scrutiny of the spending of public money would be put at risk, saying: “Unincorporated bodies are not public bodies and do not have the same level of accountability enshrined in statute as incorporated bodies. Incorporated bodies are regulated by Scots law and are accountable to the Scottish Parliament.”
However, an official decision was reached on August 1 with Shetland UHI principle Jane Lewis sharing the following statement: “This project has involved a great deal of hard work over several years and I am extremely grateful to all who have been involved for their commitment and effort.
“I look forward to working with everyone at Shetland UHI, and our partners, to build on the legacies of the merged organisations and deliver inspirational learning, influential training and innovative research rooted in the heart of Shetland’s community.”
Shetland UHI board chairman Davie Sandison added: “This is a very significant point in our evolution into the new merged College for Shetland, and it is exciting to look forward to the opportunities ahead of us.
“I am looking forward to working with the Shetland UHI staff and my fellow board members to implement Shetland UHI’s strategies and deliver high-quality education for Shetland.”
“Shetland UHI will be an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands.”