Stourbridge College students concerned over travel

The increased travel time and cost will deter Stourbridge students from attending Dudley or Halesowen colleges, suggests UCU survey

Kate Parker

Stourbridge College, Stourbridge College closure, Dudley College, Halesowen, BMet,

The majority of students at Stourbridge College say they won't attend Dudley College of Technology or Halesowen College in September, a survey by the University and College Union (UCU) has found. 

According to the survey of around 100 students, more than three-fifths are deterred from studying at Dudley or Halesowen by extra travel time and cost.

However Birmingham Metropolitan College, which is closing Stourbridge College and transfering all provision to Dudley and Halesowen, said that over 70 per cent of progressing learners had already re-enrolled for September.

News:  College staff to protest against campus closure

Background:  Birmingham Met to demerge Stourbridge College

Quick read: 'FE sector likely to see further de-mergers'

In June, Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMet) announced that it planned to close Stourbridge College and transfer all provision to Dudley and Halesowen.

The UCU research found that for 74 per cent of students, travel links were part of the reason they chose to study at Stourbridge. 

The town has two train stations and travel links from around the Midlands and the Black Country – Dudley and Halesowen, however, can only be reached by bus or car. 

According to the UCU survey, 13 per cent of students said that travelling to Halesowen or Dudley would cost more, while 44 per cent said it would take them longer. One in 10 said that it would require them to take two buses, and 6 per cent said that they simply wouldn’t be able to travel that far. 

Some 80 per cent of students said it would prolong their day, and 17 per cent said that it would impact their care responsibilities or childcare arrangements, according to the survey. 

'An abomination'

BMet’s decision has been met with outrage from college staff, students and the local community. On Saturday, hundreds took to the streets of Stourbridge in protest. 

UCU regional support official Teresa Corr told Tes: “They’re trying to deliver something that really is an abomination for the people of Stourbridge. A whole town after a period of 180 years is going to lose its college through no fault of its own. 

“The justification is that college [BMet] who’s thinking of closing the campus and selling it off is in fairly dire straits financially because of a combination of mismanagement for any number of years, growing beyond their needs, paying huge salaries to principals, on top of that is what is happening in the FE world, which is shortfall of funding. 

“There’s an agenda where they’re punishing colleges who haven’t managed themselves properly and one of the reasons for that is that they haven’t had the money come in,” she said.  

BMet has been subject to a financial notice of concern since July 2015, and Stourbridge College itself was subject to an eight-week review by the FE commissioner's team. 

Cliff Hall, principal at BMet, said that a detailed impact assessment for learners was carried out.

“This assessment showed that the majority of students will not have further to travel to study as the vast majority of our students live within a 10-mile radius of the college, but where there is an increase this is on average less than 3 miles. All students have been guaranteed the full cost of their public transport will be covered for them.   

“We acknowledge that, in a small number of cases, students in the most rural communities, the majority of whom were based at Kidderminster Academy, will have to travel further. These learners are not generally well supported by public transport so there is further work being undertaken to see how the needs of these learners can be met," he said. 

Skills Training UK

Last week, it was reported learning provider Skills Training UK had expressed an interested in opening a new base to replace the college.

The provider already has sites in Wolverhampton, Dudley and Walsall and said it planned to launch a new centre in the heart of Stourbridge if there is sufficient interest.  

It added that it wanted to assess the level of demand before committing to opening a centre in Stourbridge, which would offer post-16 vocational courses for people aged 16 to 18.

Martin Dunford, Skills Training UK's chief executive said: “Skills Training UK has been successful in the West Midlands, with established training centres in Dudley and Walsall and two academies for business, industry and technology in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Because of increasing demand, we are looking into growing further capacity in the whole West Midlands region and Stourbridge is one possibility.”

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

headshot KP

Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

Latest stories