UHI close to winning title

The Scottish Highlands and Islands could soon have their own university after the UHI Millennium Institute cleared a major hurdle on its way to securing university status.

December 27, 2010

Following a board meeting earlier this month, the Quality Assurance Agency will advise the Scottish government that UHI has met the quality standards required.

The decision could mean that the long-awaited decision about whether to bestow the university title on the institution is made within weeks.

Michael Russell, the Scottish education secretary, said he “very much welcomed” the QAA’s report, adding that it was “a tremendous achievement” for UHI.

“The opportunities that university-level learning has to offer the Highlands and Islands are considerable not only in terms of its economic future but also in terms of the social and cultural benefits this can bring,” he said.

“UHI is already playing an important role in enabling people across the region to access higher education without having to leave the area.”

A public consultation was held by the Scottish government earlier this year after UHI’s initial application to the Privy Council in May.

The results of that consultation are now being considered by ministers, who will make a recommendation before the final decision is taken by the Privy Council early in 2011.

James Fraser, the UHI principal, said: “It would be an understatement to say we are delighted, but we must contain our celebrations until a final decision is made by the Privy Council. To be considered worthy of university title by the QAA is a marvellous achievement, and I must pay tribute to our staff, both past and present, and to our supporters who have brought us to this stage.”

UHI, which covers an area the size of Belgium with a population equivalent to that of Greater Edinburgh, is a partnership of 13 colleges and research institutes, with a network of more than 50 outreach learning centres. As such, its expertise is in delivering teaching to a scattered population, using technology to link small groups of students.

It won taught degree-awarding powers in 2008, with doctoral degrees awarded by the University of Aberdeen.

john.gill@tsleducation.com

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