ELMWOOD College in Cupar has announced it is likely to merge with two agricultural education institutions – a move which would effectively safeguard its future and provide world-class land-based learning opportunities for local students.
The boards of Elmwood and Oatridge College in Broxburn, plus the board of the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), which offers land-based degree courses, have agreed to move towards becoming one major institution, subject to due diligence being carried out over the next few months.
Barony Collage, based near Dumfries, is also considering signing up to the merger plans.
In March, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell MSP, launched a concordat signed by representatives of SAC and Scotland’s three land-based colleges.
It marked the latest progress in co-ordinating and streamlining the delivery of education, skills and business support to Scotland’s land-based sector.
A joint statement issued by Elmwood, Oatridge and SAC said: “We share a vision for the delivery of comprehensive skills, education and business support for Scotland’s land-based industries, built on world class and sector-leading research.
We are committed to a new model for Scotland of an innovative, integrated model of academic and practical expertise, using the strengths of all partners in the transfer of knowledge to and from partners, stakeholders and the industry.”
The merger plans are a significant development for land-based education in Scotland.
Mr Russell commented: “This planned merger is excellent news and fits in with the range of reforms to post-16 learning in Scotland I announced this week.
“Its aim of bringing together the distinctive contributions of Elmwood, Oatridge and SAC to improve the experience of learners is very much in tune with my thinking.
“I wish the partners well, and I look forward to hearing the outcome of discussions at Barony College in due course.”
Elmwood College is almost full with a roll of over 1000 full-time students and another 5000 part-time students undertaking a variety of courses from National Certificate to Higher National Diploma levels.
The partnership with SAC would allow students to plan their studies straight through to degree level at SAC campuses in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Ayr.
In March, students and staff joined forces to protest against a £1 million cut in Elmwood College’s budget.
At that time the college announced it would have to make huge savings and confirmed it was transferring all of its general agriculture courses to Oatridge, while green-keeping students from there would join Elmwood.