I know we will all have our own strong personal arguments about the
value of DACE, which I hope you will make in writing and if possible in
person this week. It also seems to me that we are dealing with a senior
management of the University under-informed and cavalier about facts.
So in case you are interested, possibly with some of my invective toned
down, here are the factual points which have struck me so far, that you
might like to incorporate if you felt it appropriate in your own
response to the consultation. Also please pass on to any of your
student colleagues for their information and use.
From my perspective, the Open Courses of University of Glasgow’s Adult
and Continuing Education appear to be an unalloyed good – intellectual,
social, educational, health, economic, civic, personal and collective.
To the University’s senior management they seem to be an inconvenient
good. I believe it is vital they are brought to reconsider their
damaging proposals, and to put the Open Courses on a sustainable basis
for the future in a world of reduced funding, but not to close them.
High Reach: Open courses attract 5,000 students – as many as all
the University’s postgraduates combined; equivalent to a third of all
Diverse: 30% receive ILA or fee waiver as they are on below
average incomes; 50% are of working age. So the caricature that the
courses are leisure learning for the wealthy retired of Bearsden etc.,
is a gross distortion. Even if that demographic is well-represented.
Inclusive: 1,500 low income students is a very high proportion
of the University’s total reach to the least well off; and at 30% is
much much higher than achieved on Glasgow’s undergraduate courses. Open
Courses also attract a higher proportion of students with disabilities.
High Quality: All courses are taught at least at University
undergraduate entry year standard (level 1 in the jargon). Student
satisfaction with DACE sits at 97% good or excellent. Many students
return for study year after year – short termist commitment is another
misleading “Closers’ Caricature”.
Efficient: Less than 10 EFT salaried staff, supported by a
larger cadre of freelance specialist tutors, deliver learning for 5,000
adult and continuing education students. The University employs over
2,000 academics to teach 20,000 under- and post-graduates. Thus with a
staff ratio of worse than 1:10 the University is claiming in the name of
efficiency to cut a service with a staff ratio of 1:500. Teaching costs
and posts in DACE have been made variable and flexible with demand – not
enough students sign up, a course doesn’t go ahead – surely the
University should learn from DACE, not close it.
In Demand: Fees were raised 25% for 2010/11, yet attendances
have held up, and there is huge student concern at the threatened
closure. Students are committed to the value of the learning they
By contrast the University has been shifty about their reasons for
closure. There consistent line is: poor strategic fit with a vision for
the University as a broad-based research intensive institution, that
will grow its future research revenues and non-EU international student
numbers. The financial arguments for closing DACE have never been
properly revealed, and there has been no sharing of the analysis, in
this “transparent consultation”, that led management to their conclusion
that closure would save money at an acceptable level of loss of benefit.
No Cost:Benefit offered at all, in other words.
The absence of a factually-supported robust debate on these proposals –
the absolute essence of what HE and University research stands for – is
a grotesque travesty, bordering on hypocrisy by those in leadership
roles in the University.
Top Universities Provide Continuing Education: In fact many of
the world’s top performing Universities – Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge,
York, Durham etc. – combine stellar academic performance in league
tables with vibrant lifelong learning provision. There is no
contradiction between a premier league positioning, and making learning
accessible to adult learners. So the University’s focus justification is
Research Grants: DACE academics already attract research funding
– so they are contributing in ways the senior management recognise as
priorities for the future.
Qualifications: DACE has been blocked for a decade from
developing undergraduate qualifications to sit alongside its Open
Courses as an attractive form of progression. And only last year a 2
year Certificated course in Archaeology, respected across the sector,
was shut down by senior management. So Adult Education has been blocked
from closer integration into the rest of the University.
Malign Neglect: Given recent restructurings which disbanded DACE
as a distinct department in 2010, it is hard not to conclude but that
the Open Programmes have been on the receiving end of malign neglect for
several years, which is now being exploited to push through a deeply
damaging complete and final cut.
Loss of 20% of Students: Unlike undergraduate course changes,
where students no longer offered places on one course will be
counterbalanced by more students elsewhere, the closure of the Open
Courses stops provision in all subjects entirely, reducing access to the
University by 20% at a stroke.
Less for Glasgow: This proposal creates a quite unnecessary loss
of amenity to the City of Glasgow – from which the University takes its
name – in order to do more for students from Asia and America. This is
not a necessary trade-off. Language courses, in the open programmes and
for undergraduates are being cut in the name of a more international
institution – the internal contradictions mount up.
It is obvious that a restructured and refocussed DACE, with revised
pricing and mix of courses could cost the University a bit less, raise a
bit more in fees and contribute a lot to access and marketing of the
University, while contributing a bit to attracting International
students (use the freelance specialists as guest lecturers etc.) and to
research income. Its good work absolutely can continue in a new
financial climate. It just needs the management will to mandate it.
I sincerely hope that you will add your voice formally to the
consultation in favour of keeping the Open Programmes. You can contact
the consultation (by 4th April) to make your views
known at this email: