The University of Abertay in Dundee is something of an icon in the interactive world. It has gained an enviable reputation over the last several years. Not just in Scotland, or even the UK, but globally. Abertay is producing talented graduates with the skills required within a rapidly evolving industry. It also works closely nearly all of the local development studios. Plus, Abertay has done more than almost any other institution in the UK as far as promoting new talent celebrating creativity, with its involvement in the Dare to be Digital competition, Dare ProtoPlay event and numerous games workshops for 11-16 year olds.
Abertay is, in short, a very useful place to have on your doorstep.
However, the future of Abertay is now in doubt. Debate erupted last week, following a Scottish Government white paper exploring the opportunities for merging universities where it makes ‘financial and academic sense to do so’. This speculated on the possibility of Dundee University and the University of Abertay merging into a single institution. Abertay also received a request for the university to outline and justify its role.
Scottishgames.net can exclusively reveal that both Abertay and Dundee University have now received letters from the government asking them to start exploring how a potential merger would work.
What this would mean for Abertay’s position as a world leader in the videogames sector, is open for debate. Given the university’s reputation as a world leader within the interactive and digital media markets, it would be ridiculous to imagine any merged university taking focus away from an industry which the Scottish and UK governments are recognising as a key driver for the future prosperity of the country.
Yet, within a larger organisation, the creativity, flexibility, expertise and passion which Abertay has devoted to its games-related courses, could be diluted, ignored or simply rolled into a larger, less focused area of education.
None of which would help the games industry. Locally, nationally or globally.
We’ve all been sent this internal email this morning from Abertay’s Court. The message is “we don’t like this, but sit tight.” :
You will no doubt have seen or heard about media coverage on Friday and over the weekend regarding a proposed merger between Abertay University and Dundee University. This was prompted by an email we received from the Scottish Funding Council late on Thursday stating that they urgently wish to discuss the terms of a merger between ourselves and Dundee.
We are puzzled by this because, at the time we received the email, the Funding Council had not seen the University’s response to their earlier letter requesting us to delay the recruitment of a new Principal and to carry out an evaluation of the University’s role within Scottish higher education. Court had been considering its response carefully to that earlier letter (which made no mention of merger) and has now written to the Funding Council agreeing to both requests. A copy of that letter is attached.
It is therefore something of a mystery as to why we have now received a second letter that makes no mention of the first letter, but instead instructs us to open negotiations with the Funding Council and the University of Dundee with a view to a merger. We are seeking clarification from the Funding Council as to why they have sent us two apparently conflicting letters.
Abertay has carved out a highly distinctive and successful role for itself within both Scottish and UK higher education, and partnerships with other institutions have been a key factor in this. We have responded to the Funding Council’s first letter positively and constructively, and in the spirit in which we have established many successful partnerships in the past – that is, after careful consideration and proper consultation on all the options.
However, merger is a very different thing from collaboration or partnership, and we believe it is unprecedented and inappropriate for the Funding Council to instruct autonomous and demonstrably successful institutions to consider only one option and not to discuss all the possibilities that exist. We are therefore also seeking clarification from the Funding Council as to why they are acting in this way.
Professor Nicholas Terry
Principal and Vice-Chancellor (Acting)
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