The Highlands and Islands could soon have its own university after the UHI Millennium Institute cleared a major hurdle to it achieving its aim of becoming a university.
Following a Board meeting the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) will be formally advising the Scottish Government that it has assessed UHI as fully meeting the quality and standards that university title carries with it.
It follows a rigorous review by a QAA scrutiny panel drawn from the higher education sector, and means a final decision could be reached within weeks.
Welcoming the decision, Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary of Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “I very much welcome the news that the QAA has assessed UHI as meeting the quality and standards that university title carries in Scotland.
“This is a tremendous achievement for UHI and is a key step in achieving its long held ambition of university title.
“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. UHI is already playing an important role in enabling people across the region to access higher education without having to leave the area.
The Scottish Government held a public consultation earlier this year after UHI’s initial application to the Privy Council in May 2010. The results of that consultation are now being considered by Ministers who will make a recommendation before the final decision is made by the Privy Council early next year.
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.
“We very much hope that the people of the Highlands and Islands will have something wonderful to celebrate in the new year when they finally have a university of their own.”