ELMWOOD College’s proposed merger looks set to go ahead after the board of management unanimously agreed the move.
The Cupar college will join forces with three other land-based institutions — Barony College, Oatridge College and the Scottish Agricultural College — to create one new major entity.
It is hoped the merger will streamline land-based education and have a positive impact on students and the rural economy.
But Elmwood says it appreciates the news will create “uncertainty” among students, staff and others connected to the college.
Bob Howat, chairman of Elmwood College’s board of management, spoke of his excitement at the plans.
He said: “I am excited by the prospect of creating something new and unique — the first truly integrated tertiary education body in Scotland primarily focused on a single industry of significance to our national economy.
“In the process leading up to the development of this vision and ambition, I have enjoyed reflecting on past success.
“I am much more excited by the future and the possibilities the new entity offers Scotland’s land-based industries.”
The merger was first mooted last year in response to new Scottish Government education policy and a reduction in funding.
Of the colleges to sign up, Oatridge is based in West Lothian and Barony in Dumfries and Galloway.
The Scottish Agricultural College has locations all over the country.
Announcing the Elmwood board’s decision on Monday, a college spokesperson said: “The board of management of Elmwood College today agreed unanimously and unequivocally to the proposed merger between Elmwood College, Barony College, Oatridge College and the Scottish Agricultural College, with a vesting date of August 1, 2012.
“It is the belief of the board that the new college will have a positive impact on the land-based economy and its communities.
“It has great potential to deliver better outcomes for students and to offer enhanced consultancy and research services of local, national and international significance.
“The merger presents a unique opportunity to create a new integrated tertiary education, research and consultancy organisation to serve a wide range of stakeholders across and beyond Scotland.
“The merger represents a significant step towards the development of a rural university college and the creation of a sustainable organisation for the delivery of land-based teaching, research and consultancy for Scotland and beyond.”
The spokesperson went on: “While the board agrees wholeheartedly with the vision at the centre of the proposed new entity, it is mindful of the great uncertainty brought about by a merger — for the staff, students and external stakeholders — but it is confident that the merger will bring significant long-term benefits to Elmwood’s students, staff and the Fife economy as a whole.
“A communications and engagement strategy is being developed to ensure that we not only keep our eye on the vision but that we give every opportunity for everyone to engage in forming this exciting new institution.”