Councillors are being asked to bring a £4.5 million extension to Shetland College to the front of the building queue to avoid losing out on a £1.8 million European grant.
If elected members agree to put up the remaining £2.5 million at the Full Council on Wednesday other projects ahead of it on the council’s waiting list will have to wait longer for their turn.
Phase three of the college expansion involves building a two-storey block onto the west end of the lower of the two existing blocks at Gremista. The project is not in line for council funding for at least five years but if councillors agree to fast-track it then work could get under way later this year with most of the building done in the following two years.
The college needs extra room for teaching and for student space and it is hoping to shed its institutional appearance in favour of a less formal campus-style experience. The college is proving increasingly popular for further and higher education and is struggling to cope, student numbers having risen from 1,252 in 2005/06 to 1,664 last year.
Among the improved services would be a creative industries unit with a good-quality studio, which could attract contemporary textiles students from outwith Shetland. The existing construction workshop would be able to expand, allowing plumbing and bricklaying courses to be offered in Shetland instead of students having to go south.
Catering students would no longer have to cook in kitchens next to the Anderson High School and there would be room in the new-look college for prestigious research students to come and study.
The £1.8 million EU grant has been awarded under a scheme to enhance peripheral and fragile communities and it is thought that matching funding needs to be in place by the end of March to unlock the allocation.
If the council grant of £2.5 million is agreed the remaining £200,000 would be found from annual government funding to the college. The council’s contribution may be reduced at a later date if funding bids for a total of £700,000 from HIE Shetland and the Scottish Funding Council are successful.
In a report to the Full Council, college director George Smith stated: “This project will revitalise Shetland College and will provide facilities in Shetland for further and higher education of which everyone can be proud.
“It will be a centre of excellence for teaching and researching in Shetland and therefore will be central to Shetland College playing a full part in the activities of the University of the Highlands and Islands.”