The National College of Art and Design (NCAD) has entered into talks with University College Dublin about the possibility of the merger of the two colleges. The discussion are expected to continue over the next number of months.A spokesperson for UCD has confirmed that these talks have begun, commenting: “UCD and NCAD have now entered into further talks up to and including the possibility of a merger.” Director of NCAD Declan McGonagle offered similar confirmation, adding that they are “only at the beginning on that discussion and we’re looking at all the implications of it.”These discussions have been initiated following a review of third level education, commissioned by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). The review looked at numerous areas, but proposed that a number of Ireland’s higher education institutions should be consolidated, UCD and NCAD included.This is not the first time that such a merger has been proposed. In 2006, discussions were held about a merger of UCD and NCAD, with the stipulation that NCAD would be integrated on UCD’s campus. This was met with outrage and protest from staff members and students at NCAD, and the plans were eventually shelved. The current proposals explicitly exclude the possibility of a merged campus. If the merger is approved, NCAD will remain at its current location on Thomas Street in Dublin.Alongside these talks, UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin has begun discussions with NCADSU over the ramifications of a merger for both students’ unions. This came in response to numerous angry posts on NCADSU’s Facebook page, from students who were concerned that NCADSU would be “swallowed up” by UCDSU, should the merger come to fruition, according to Breslin.It is envisioned that the two Union’s would remain as separate entities in practical terms, though NCADSU would exist under the UCDSU umbrella. NCADSU would still be present on the NCAD campus, and would retain a level of independence. Breslin explained: “They would still keep their ratio of a budget, and their individuality and their ability to be responsible for their own running, accountable to their own officers on their own campus. I think that the structures of the students’ unions and the way they operate are so different that a full merger isn’t desirable from either side, though we could certainly benefit each other.”Both Unions plan to continue talks on the matter, however they have no timeline for when they would formalise their agreement. According to Breslin, this will be dictated by the pace at which the merger discussion progress at university management level.UCD and NCAD have already formed a collaborative relationship, having entered into an academic alliance two years ago. In September 2011, NCAD ceased being a recognised college of the National University of Ireland and became a recognised college of UCD, meaning that all NCAD degrees are validated by UCD. According to a spokesperson for UCD, NCAS has “retained institutional autonomy throughout the advancement of this alliance” and it has “facilitated collaborations in teaching and research across both institutions”.