College takes forward integration plans to meet needs of students, staff and communities

UHI North, West and Hebrides is taking forward its post-merger plans to become a fully integrated organisation, which is more sustainable and better serves the needs of its students, staff, and rural and island communities.

To deliver on the aims and objectives set out in its merger business case, UHI North, West and Hebrides is beginning consultation with trade unions and staff on restructure proposals, which will create a more integrated, effective, and sustainable organisation.

Work has also concluded on a curriculum review resulting in a new curriculum offer for the college for the 2024-2025 academic year, which safeguards provision across all subject areas and qualification levels, ensures the continued viability of practical courses delivered on the college’s 19 campuses and centres, and widens access to learning for more learners across our rural and island communities through the innovative use of digital technology.

With public funding for the college and university sectors more challenging than ever before, the college is making substantial progress on achieving its Scottish Funding Council approved sustainability plan.

The college has already achieved £1.9 million annualised savings this year and is working with its trade unions and staff to reduce costs by a further £1.4 million through the restructure. It is aiming to achieve these savings through vacancy management, a voluntary severance scheme and non-staff savings, in line with Fair Work principles.

Lydia Rohmer, Principal and Chief Executive of UHI North, West and Hebrides, said: “We are working in partnership with our staff, students and trade unions to take forward the proposals we consulted on extensively in our merger business case to build our college of scale and impact, which better serves the needs of our rural and islands communities, enhances the student experience by widening access and connecting our learners, and can better respond to the once-in-a-generation economic opportunities in our region.

“We do not underestimate the work involved to fully realise our merger ambitions or the impact of change on our staff. Despite the significant challenges facing our sector, we have already made substantial progress towards becoming a more sustainable, integrated, and effective college.  We will do all we can to support our staff throughout this restructuring process and minimise any disruption to students.”

Colleges and universities across the country are operating in an extremely challenging financial environment, which has worsened since the merger process began. The college sector has seen a 8.5% real term reduction in funding for colleges between 2021 and 2023, and a further 4.7 % cut for the 2024-2025 academic year.

Ms Rohmer added: “We remain more sustainable as a merged college and have the combined capacity, resource, and expertise to deliver and develop distinctive education, training, and research, provide a skills pipeline to meet current and future workforce needs in our region’s key growth sectors, and enhance engagement with our students, employers, and communities. Students are at the heart of everything we do, and we remain well placed to deliver high quality learning, teaching, and research, support our students, and play a transformative role in the lives of people who choose to live, work and study in our region.”