SCOTTISH education minister Brian Wilson yesterday unveiled plans for a distinctive Scottish University for Industry, backed by Pounds 1.3 million from the government.
The national development agency Scottish Enterprise, working with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, will set up SUfI over the next two years, with a Scottish chief executive and board expected to be in post early in 1999.
Alistair MacFarlane, former principal of Heriot-Watt University and convener of the UfI Scottish advisory group, said it would run as a distinct organisation from the UfI south of the border.
"Our approach is bottom up, whereas the Department for Education and Employment approach is top down. Their idea is to create overarching structures, while our idea is to foster and grow existing networks," he said.
Mr Wilson said: "A Scottish University for Industry will enable us to build on the strengths of our distinctive education system and the advantage of the many successful working partnerships which exist in Scotland."
Business and new learners would both be targets, with SUfI playing a key role in boosting business competitiveness and reducing social exclusion, said Mr Wilson. He urged providers, learners, business and other partners to work together to make it a success.
Professor MacFarlane said the SUfI would offer further and higher education enormous opportunities, but they would have to rethink who their clients were, how they found them and how they supported them. Colleges and universities would face new competitors, such as multinationals, which would create learning resource centres for their employees and make them available to other learners.
"Further education is most likely to be the sector that will move in quickly and deliver the goods," he said. "Colleges will have to organise themselves as a sector, and I don't think they have done anything on that scale before."
* Report from Association of Scottish Colleges, page 5