Herald article

The university has spoken publicly about the recommendations to Senate (Herald article, 17/05, below).Please let us have YOUR views on the proposals by posting via the ‘Suggestions’ tab on the menu. The fight is not over yet.

Courses for older students saved by protests

ANDREW DENHOLM EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT EXCLUSIVE

17 May 2011

EVENING and weekend classes at Glasgow University appear to have been saved after a public outcry over plans to close them.

The university has now recommended keeping open its Department of Adult and Continuing Education.

However, the unit will have to pay its way and a grant it previously received will be phased out over the next few years.

That will mean the public is likely to face higher charges for some courses, while others could be scrapped if they prove uneconomic, leading to accusations of privatisation of the service.

The university repeated previous statements that there would be no threat to any access courses, which help widen participation.

The panel was struck by the level of interest from the community … Court should be mindful of  alienating the community

The Herald revealed earlier this year that Glasgow University had drawn up proposals to close the department, or scale back what it offered, as part of wider cuts to courses.

The university’s senior man-agement group argued that closing adult education would reduce the university’s salary costs and provide additional savings by reducing the use of buildings. However, critics said the courses were popular – with nearly 6000 enrolments this year – and showed the university’s commitment to the wider community.

There was a public backlash with more than 1000 letters and emails of protest sent to  Professor Anton Muscatelli, the university principal.

The adult education department was also defended by  Scotland’s national poet, Liz Lochhead, and Professor John Brown, the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, who both said adult education classes at Glasgow were at the root of their subsequent achievements .

A consultation on the proposals by a specialist university panel has now recommended keeping the department open.

“The panel was struck by the level of interest from the community in the provision offered,” its report states.

“It is clearly perceived as a key mechanism for the university’s engagement with the commun-ity and has a strong impact on the university’s reputation locally.

“Court should be mindful of the negative impact of alienating the local community.”

However, the report adds that the view of the panel was that the open programme could not continue to operate on its  existing basis.

A number of recommendations for change are included, which will be considered by  the university’s ruling Court  in June.

Foremost of these is that the department of adult and continuing education becomes an independent, self-supporting unit within three years.

After that it should get no public support from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

“The business model … should account for all income … together with direct and indirect costs such that the programme at least breaks even, with no reliance on the SFC funded places in the model,” the report states.

The panel also calls on the department to develop a marketing and advertising strategy to highlight its work more widely, and suggests running summer schools to broaden its appeal.

Yesterday, Ms Lochhead welcomed the recommendations to keep the department, but said a close eye would have to be kept on the level of fees charged.

“This has been a wonderful asset to the wider community and it is good news that it will be retained, but the courses should be affordable and not everything in life should be subject to a business model.”

Mr Brown said: “On the face of it this is good news, but we may end up with a situation where the university wants to take credit for running these courses, but is not going to  pay for it. Crass privatisation of the open programme should  be avoided.”

A university spokesman said: “We can confirm these are the recommendations in the report which will be considered by the university Court at its meeting in June.”

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About savedace

Musician, actor and writer based in Glasgow
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