Agricultural colleges merge to create training hub for rural industries
Scotland's Rural University College hopes to offer its first degree courses in 2014.
Four colleges specialising in food and agriculture have merged to become Scotland’s Rural University College (SRUC).
The SRUC will bring together six campuses and more than 8,000 students under one roof and is hoping to begin its first degree courses in 2014.
The new college combines Barony, Elmwood and Oatridge Colleges and the Scottish Agricultural College, which provide rural business consultancy for more than 12,500 customers.
SRUC chairman Lord Jamie Lindsay said: “Within the lifetime of today's SRUC students, world food production must almost double to feed the growing population.
"This must be done on less land with diminishing resources, while protecting the environment and addressing the challenges posed by climate change.
"In addition, the growing need for innovation in the rural industries and increasing diversity in food production means ever more complex jobs requiring appropriately skilled and qualified people.
"Here in Scotland, we need to continue to raise the competitiveness of the agri-food industry, which is currently worth over £12bn a year."
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Rural communities have a huge part to play in Scottish life and Scotland's successes but it's vital that people have access to the right skills to help their communities flourish in a modern Scotland.
"This merger of our land-based colleges will ensure that Scots have access to the highest quality training and research which will stand our rural communities in good stead for generations to come."