UHI Millennium Institute looks poised to gain university title.
Following a Board meeting last week, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) is advising the Scottish Government that it has assessed UHI as fully meeting the quality and standards required for university title.
It follows a rigorous review by a QAA scrutiny panel drawn from the higher education sector, and means a final decision should be reached early in the new year.
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.
"I recognise that this positive assessment by QAA is the result of an enormous amount of work from staff across the UHI network who must be delighted to have their efforts recognised in this way."
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.
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said:
"Today's announcement that the region will have its own university heralds an exciting milestone for the Highlands and Islands.
"Competitive regions are underpinned by successful universities and people with high levels of educational attainment. HIE has been working closely with UHI in its development over several years, culminating in this decision by the QAA.
"Developing a University of the Highlands and Islands has been one of HIE's top priorities and we now look forward to working with UHI staff across the region to deliver future growth for our economy."
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."