Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 13:47 UK

Teaching college looks at merger

Queen's University Belfast
Stranmillis and Queen's already have links

Stranmillis University College in Belfast is considering a complete merger with Queen's University.

The city's Stranmillis and St Mary's university colleges both face a fall in the number of students they can accept, due to a fall in pupils in schools.

Both have diversified into non-teaching degrees but it is believed the government has called a halt to the development of further courses.

St Mary's has said that it is opposed to any merger.

Stranmillis is considering the future and will hear a presentation of Queen's bid later on Thursday.

However, DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt said staff had complained they are in the dark about the proposal.

He is also worried that the result could be the loss of the site to developers.

Steve Costello speaking to education correspondent Maggie Taggart

The chairman of Stranmillis governing body, Steve Costello, said the talks were tentative at the moment.

He said the site was not at risk because Queen's would intend to site all its teaching courses in the Stranmillis buildings.

St Mary's is fully committed to maintaining its autonomy
Peter Finn
Acting principal

"We've been in consultation with Queen's as with other providers over the last, effecitively, six months or so," he said.

"What Jimmy Spratt has been saying about the land... he could have asked that question yesterday and he didn't.

"Quite cleary the board of Stranmillis will not negotiate that land, that is going to be for educational use."

In a statement, St Mary's said that it was not thinking of closing or merging with Queen's.

"The present partnership of academic integration with Queen's University works perfectly well for our students," acting principal Peter Finn said.

"Above all, St Mary's is fully committed to maintaining its autonomy, its distinctive educational ethos and its sense of community."

He said they were affected by the same issues as Stranmillis, but that they were discussing a revised funding methodology with the Department for Employment and Learning and student teacher intakes with the Department of Education.

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