Bell sets sights on higher status

March 27, 1998

A Scottish college widely seen as the victim of political horsetrading 15 years ago is making a bid to move from further education to higher education.

Bell College of Technology in Hamilton was one of three further education colleges earmarked to become higher education institutions by the Council for Tertiary Education in Scotland in 1983.

But, despite having 90 per cent of its students on advanced full-time courses, it was retained by Strathclyde regional council, which would otherwise have lost two flagship institutions.

Strathclyde gave up control of Glasgow College, which is now Glasgow Caledonian University.

Bell has become increasingly anomalous in the further education sector, with all of its work now at the higher education level. Its work ranges from higher national certificates to professional qualifications and postgraduate courses. There are 20 degree and five postgraduate courses validated by Strathclyde University.

In 1996, the colleges of nursing and midwifery, previously managed by two nearby health boards, were integrated in its new faculty of health and social science.

Bell principal Ken McCallum said: "Becoming a college of higher education will be an important recognition of the contributions that we are already making."

Bell's application to the Scottish Office is now going out for consultation to key organisations in further and higher education and the public and private sectors.

Assistant principal Brian Powlesland said the college did not know whether it would be better funded if it came under the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council.

"But there would be a more rational basis of establishing our funding in relation to the types of courses we are providing," he said. "It will make issues such as quality assurance more apposite. We would be looking at quality vis-a-vis SHEFC systems rather than Scottish Office systems."

Mr Powlesland did not foresee problems with the government's consolidation policy for student numbers, which is enforced by the SHEFC.

"We're already in the system in that it is higher education courses that we deliver. It's not the expectation that we are planning a radical increase in student numbers overnight."

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