Has consideration of students' needs left the building?

19th December 2014 at 00:00
Learners fear Glasgow's costly new campus is driving decisions

Students have expressed concern that a planned shake-up of further education provision in Glasgow could reduce their access to courses, claiming that the plans are motivated by funding pressures.

Students at Glasgow Clyde College said that proposals to move courses to the city centre could be "detrimental" to learners from outlying and deprived areas.

Under the suggested plans for 2015-20, the city's Clyde and Kelvin Colleges would need to make large cuts to the number of courses they offer, potentially leading to a loss of up to 64 teaching staff and a reduction of pound;4.1 million in core funding.

The proposals would also mean the closure of Glasgow Kelvin College's city centre campus. Meanwhile, City of Glasgow College would increase its offering by more than 20 per cent as it moves to its new, larger campus, which could create 95 full-time jobs.

This new campus is already under construction, with the cost of the project estimated at pound;228 million.

The proposals have been drawn up by the Glasgow Colleges Strategic Partnership, which is tasked with ensuring that the best use is made of the colleges' resources and facilities. Senior staff from all three institutions sit on the body.

Glasgow Clyde College's student association put forward its concerns in a consultation response after surveying 1,900 students and 10 focus groups. The association stressed that it was aware of the budgetary constraints that the partnership had to work within and acknowledged that a case could be made for not doubling up on courses.

But it also argued that the proposal appeared primarily to be driven "by the funding requirements of the major city centre building project within the context of reduced funding to Glasgow".

"There was serious concern regarding loss of provision from Glasgow Clyde College in order to `put bums on seats' within the new City of Glasgow buildings," the response says. "There must be a parity of provision and accessibility of courses at all levels to all students and not simply certain courses available within the city centre."

It adds that, if funding for the FE sector in Glasgow were to increase, Clyde and Kelvin Colleges should be the main recipients, in order to "bring them back on a level playing field with City of Glasgow College".

"It seems to students, from the information given, that City of Glasgow College is gaining all the benefits from the start of the process," the document says.

The students also raised concerns over learners having to commute to other campuses in the city for courses, as travel costs could be a barrier. "We seek assurance that the matter of travel expenses is understood and will be taken up with urgency," the response says.

The student concerns echo the issues raised by the Glasgow committee of the EIS-FELA union, which represents college lecturers. It said last month: "The proposals appear to be driven by the funding requirements of the building project at City of Glasgow College rather than educational consideration.

"The overall effect of implementing them would be to expand provision in the city centre and reduce it on the periphery. Naturally, this raises serious concerns that community provision and educational opportunities for those who need them most would be diminished."

The Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board did not respond to a request for comment.

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