Principal rules out merger

October 11, 2002

The recent announcement that Joan Stringer, principal of Queen Margaret University College, was to become principal of Napier University worried many of the staff.

More than a decade ago, many people believed that a merger between the two Edinburgh institutions would be a logical step. Professor Stringer's appointment led some to suspect that she would take QMUC with her when she moved to Napier. These fears have been allayed.

Next March, Anthony Cohen, provost of law and social sciences at Edinburgh University, will take up the principalship. And he is unequivocal. "Merger is absolutely not on the cards."

And QMUC would continue its bid for full university status, he said. The college is expected this year to have about 3,800 full-time equivalent students, heading towards the 4,000 threshold, and Professor Cohen said it "more than fulfilled the qualitative criteria" for universities.

Appointing a senior academic from an ancient university underlines QMUC's intention to boost research. It submitted 43 per cent of its 190 academic staff as research active in the latest research assessment exercise, the largest percentage in any new Scottish university.

Following an academic-strategy review last session, QMUC is about to shift from four faculties to two faculties - one of health and social sciences, and one of business and arts, each containing two schools.

John Laver, vice-principal for academic strategy, said: "To focus on multidisciplinary, multiprofessional work, I recommended a move away from departments to larger schools that could focus on the common solving of problems. Some of the load of administration that accreted on to academic staff will move on to skilled administrators."

Professor Cohen said the college's portfolio mirrored the priorities of the devolved Scottish Parliament, such as the health service, social services, the tourism and leisure industries and the creative arts.

"That's why I see QMUC as absolutely central to the day-to-day life of Scotland. It is absolutely crucially engaged in the social and economic and cultural life of the nation," he said.

"We're not going to fall into the trap of trying to do everything and therefore doing lots of things not very well."

The college, currently housed on three campuses, is also seeking a new site. The local health trust named it as "preferred bidder" for the site of a former hospital, but it was taken over by the Royal Bank of Scotland for its world headquarters.

John Ward, chairman of the board of governors, said: "We've determined our preferred site and we're close to being able to make an announcement."

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