Consultation launched on proposed college merger

A 10-week public consultation on the proposed merger of UHI North Highland, UHI Outer Hebrides and UHI West Highland has been launched today.

This exciting new strategic partnership would create an anchor institution of scale and impact within UHI, and the region, supporting 9000 students and 600 staff in 19 rural and island campus locations across the north of Scotland.

All three colleges face similar challenges including real-term funding cuts, rising costs and a declining demographic. By coming together, they become a more resilient, efficient, and financially sustainable organisation, with the talent, expertise, and capacity to grow and fully respond to the needs and ambitions of their local communities.

Merger will also enhance the student experience by providing access to more flexible learning opportunities and support; protect local jobs; and focus the colleges’ collective strengths to support the growth of key industries, particularly in the blue and green economies, through distinctive education, training, and world-class research.

The three colleges have already confirmed:

  • There will be no compulsory redundancies as a direct result of merger.
  • A new college will have incorporated status, providing reassurance to staff on terms and conditions, ensuring ongoing access to public sector pensions schemes. The colleges have already committed to adopting national bargaining on pay.
  • Remaining local through dispersed leadership and management, maintaining local presence, and ensuring local views are heard and needs are met through the introduction of local advisory committees.

In a joint statement, the three principals, Debbie Murray (UHI North Highland), Sue Macfarlane (UHI Outer Hebrides), and Lydia Rohmer (UHI West Highland), said: “This is an opportunity for everyone to have their say on this exciting development, which we believe will be transformational for our rural and island communities. Merger is about doing more, not less. By coming together, we create a more resilient, sustainable organisation, which will continue to serve our local communities in the way we do now, but with more impact. We will have combined capacity to better meet the needs of our communities and to respond to the range of social, cultural and economic opportunities that make our region one of the most exciting places in the country to live, work and study right now. It is important people get involved and have their say."

Dr Michael Foxley, chair of the partnership board leading the merger project, added: “We are confident this is the best way forward for our rural and island colleges, which play a critical role in supporting our local communities, not only through access to learning, training, skills development, and world-class research, but as local employers. It is important people get involved and have their say. All views will be taken on board and will help refine the case for merger, which will be considered by the boards of management at each of our three colleges later this year.”

The full merger proposal and business case, including a detailed rationale and financial model, can be viewed at along with details of online information events and drop-ins taking place in campuses and learning centres throughout the consultation.

The full proposal builds on feedback from the initial consultation with staff, students and external stakeholders, which took place in December 2021 and January 2022.

People can make their views on merger known by completing our merger survey or sending comments to our dedicated merger email address:

The consultation runs until Friday 14 October. 

Consultation launch featuring Debbie Murray, Principal of UHI North Highland, Sue Macfarlane, Principal of UHI Outer Hebrides and Lydia Rohmer, UHI West Highland.