Leader: What's in a name?

November 2, 2006

Paisley University's wish to identify itself with the West of Scotland, rather than the industrial town of its origins, raises yet again the question of what's in a university name. Exchanging Luton for Bedfordshire, or Polytechnic for Ruskin in Anglia's case, can be seen as a cynical marketing exercise, but universities can no longer afford to ignore the image that a title projects. Institutions within the universities of London and Wales have been quietly dropping their "college" titles for several years without being accused of sharp practice.

In Paisley's case, the increasingly dispersed nature of the university provides some justification for a regional title. But it is hard to imagine Stirling, for example - let alone Lancaster or Durham - surrendering more resonant place names. The regional route is not risk-free: Plymouth tried annexing the rest of the South West of England in polytechnic days, but went back to identifying with its home city when university status arrived.

The Paisley MSPs and councillors who object to the current proposals should not give up hope, but their case will have to be based on more than sentiment.

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