Rural and Islands College Merger proposal: consultation

North highland college
Sophie Law

Consultation is an essential part of the policymaking process. It gives the opportunity to consider opinions and expertise on a proposed area of work.

The Boards of Management of the three colleges, North Highland College (UHI North Highland), West Highland College (UHI West Highland) and Lews Castle College (UHI Outer Hebrides), have proposed the merged college be re-named as UHI North, West and Hebrides. Section 3(4) of the 1992 Act provides that the governing body of a college of further education may, with the consent of the Scottish Ministers, change the name of the college or of the governing body.

The merging parties note that all three colleges face similar challenges in their rural and island contexts, including student recruitment, real-term funding cuts, a small, declining youth demographic, curriculums that can overlap or compete with each other, lack of capacity to respond to regional opportunities and requirement for estates investment.

These challenges have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and cost of living crisis. A Partnership Board was formed in September 2021 to formally explore the option of merger. An initial consultation took place with staff, students, and the public in early 2022. The merging parties advise that feedback from the initial consultation has supported the development of the full merger proposal and business case, published 8 August 2022.

The merging parties are of the view that merging will create an anchor institution of scale and impact within the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), and the region, supporting 9000 students and 600 staff across 19 rural and island campuses and learning centres in the Highlands, Skye, and Western Isles. Coming together presents an exciting opportunity to do things better – to thrive, not just survive.

Scottish Ministers are seeking views on the proposed new name for the merged college as part of this consultation.

You can view and respond to this consultation online at You can save and return to your response while the consultation is still open. Responses to this consultation mut be completed by midnight 5 May 2023 

If you are unable to respond online, the Scottish Government will by exception accept postal responses. Please complete the Respondent Information Form (see 'Handling your response' below), and send this along with your response to:

College Governance Team
5 Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
G2 8LU