Salvation for Crichton Campus

24th August 2007 at 01:00
A pound;1.5million package and a strategy to provide sustainable HE is announced for Dumfries. Neil Munro reports

A CAREFULLY choreographed string of announcements on Monday signalled salvation for the future of higher education at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries.

The campus, a joint venture mainly involving Glasgow and Paisley universities and the former Bell College, had been threatened by the decision of Glasgow not to admit any new undergraduate students to Crichton in 2007. Glas-gow university claimed its involvement was incurring an annual deficit of more than pound;800,000.

Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, has now agreed a package worth pound;1.5 million which will allow the Scottish Funding Council to help Glasgow Univer-sity make good its deficit and readmit undergraduates from the 2008-09 academic year. It will also help to expand teacher training in the south of Scotland and meet infrastructure costs.

Failure to resolve the dispute could have led to the disappearance of 200 student places and placed in doubt the future of 40 staff.

A new strategy for the campus, also published on Monday, is aimed at making further and higher education provision in the south of Scotland more sustainable by widening the range of subjects, teaching more students and bringing in more postgraduate students.

The strategy believes increased growth of HE in the area will also come from forging closer links with and attracting FE students from Dumfries and Galloway College, which is relocating to a new pound;21 million building on the campus.

Another plank in the strategy is to stimulate courses at Crichton which will be relevant to the south of Scotland and support students' employment locally hence the involvement of Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway and Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Ms Hyslop signalled her backing for these plans when she said: "I am excited by the prospect of new opportunities at undergraduate and postgraduate level being developed in areas such as teaching, health provision, environmental studies, tourism and energy."

Her announcement was immediately followed by supporting statements from Sir Muir Russell, principal of Glasgow University, and David Wann, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, which were then followed by the publication of the three-year academic strategy for higher education in the area.

Sir Muir particularly welcomed the settlement for removing from his university "the crippling burden of overhead costs which has been a major factor in our recurring deficit at Crichton".

Mr Wann said the additional resources would enable the strategy to progress "without delay".

This will involve a considerable shake-up in courses. The strategy recommends that Glasgow University should no longer provide social work, community learning and development, environmental studiessustainability, and health and social studies; these would be offered instead by the merged Paisley UniversityBell College, which already runs these courses or versions of them at other campusess.

The changes mean that Glasgow University would shed half of its current programmes at Crichton. It would continue to provide liberal arts studies, but not necessarily in their current form, as well as initial teacher education. PaisleyBell would also continue with nursing, business, computing and initial teacher education.

Last year, there were 640 full-time and 402 part-time students at the Crichton campus, studying courses ranging from a Certificate of Higher Education (equivalent to the first year of a degree) to doctoral level. The number of people in Dumfries and Galloway taking part in HE are in line with what would be expected compared with the rest of Scotland, but participation at postgraduate level is well below average.

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