Campus too costly to run

23rd February 2007 at 00:00
No more undergraduates are being admitted to Crichton campus from which Glasgow University plans a phased withdrawal

Signs of pre-election pressure building on the Scottish Funding Council to ensure Glasgow University retains its presence on Crichton campus in Dumfries have begun to emerge.

The university's court decided last week not to admit new undergraduates.

It is now considering a phased withdrawal after that.

Glasgow said its decision was prompted by the fact that its presence in Dumfries came at the cost of an "unsustainable" pound;800,000 deficit to support its 250 students.

A statement by staff and students said they were "heartened" that the university was planning further discussions with the funding council. These will be held against the backdrop of remarks in parliament last week by Jack McConnell, the First Minister, who made clear that "ministers are committed to the Crichton campus on at least its current scale and to encouraging and enabling discussions to take place towards ensuring that the campus has a continuing, viable and increasingly successful future".

Later, Allan Wilson, the Deputy Lifelong Learning Minister, said in a special debate on Crichton that he would be happy to meet the funding council and the university to reach "an amicable solution". He pointed out that the other academic institutions at Crichton, Paisley University and Bell College, will merge (in August) and establish "a new university with a new regional mission, which will obviously include the south and south-west".

The funding council is investing pound;28 million in a new building for Dumfries and Galloway College which will relocate to Crichton, creating a unique FEHE campus.

Paisley and Bell said they intended to develop and strengthen their presence in Dumfries. Paisley specialises in business and health studies, and Bell nursing and midwifery. A spokesperson for Paisley said it had no annual deficit at Crichton.

While the campus will not disappear, Glasgow's withdrawal would be a blow.

Mr McConnell told MSPs that "we are determined any reduction in student places via the University of Glasgow must be taken up by other universities".

David Bleiman, assistant general secretary of the University and College Union Scotland, called on Mr McConnell to intervene and give Crichton the political support given to the north of Scotland through the Highlands and Islands university project - a sensitive issue in the south-west, which has always been an electoral cauldron.

Alastair Hunter, president of the UCU in Scotland and a staff representative on Glasgow University court, said time was needed for those concerned with the region's best interests to campaign for extra funding.

"To stop admitting students would be to throw in the towel before the end of round one," he said.

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