Our Consultation!

Many have aired their views on the current consultation process to determine Glasgow University’s future.  Unfortunately, these important views are not being captured.  The aim of this page is to set that straight – to record staff and student experience of the consultation across ALL the concerned departments.  This page went public on 29/3/11.

Lets have a consultation on ‘the consultation!’  Please complete the short survey and leave your experience of the consultation process in the reply-box at the bottom of the page.

If you do write your views below, please make clear which department’s consultation panel your comment relates to.

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9 Responses to Our Consultation!

  1. Fiona Russell says:

    I managed to attend both ‘consultation’ meetings at Dumfries Campus (as a PGR student) by having to cancel other appointments – such was the short notice given. The minimal notice given to students regarding the meetings at that time of the semester meant many students had to make difficult decisions about coursework deadlines and attending lectures or prepare for and go to the consultation meeting. Prof. Anderson said that no preparation was needed! A second meeting was reluctantly agreed to by the chair of the panel.

    The first meeting was chaired in an adversarial and confrontational manner, with little cognisance taken of the experiences or of the factual arguments made by those students present. Two undergrads left the room in tears at the way they were treated by Prof. Anne Anderson, the chair of the panel. This is wholly unacceptable and unprofessional.

    The clerk kept minimal notes of that first meeting; I noticed her take notes of comments made by the panel but rarely comments made by the students. I asked for a copy of the minutes taken by the clerk and she admitted she’d only made rough notes. This alone showed an unacceptable potential for bias for an important consultation.

    At the second meeting I challenged the chair of the panel, Prof. Anne Anderson, about a comment she had made at the first consultation that I felt most inappropriate about the proposed Liberal Arts cuts. She said, ‘I never said that,’ but was greeted with a chorus of, ‘Oh yes you did’ by the students who had attended both meetings. Prof Anderson apologised and said she hadn’t meant what she said. Surely members of the panel have to be clear on what they say and on what is to be covered at consultations and to carry out that process appropriately, fairly and to record it accurately and fully?

    The lay member of the panel wasted some of the short hour given for the first consultation by telling Dumfries students about the proposed cuts to other areas of the UoG to ‘fit the strategic plan.’ That was an inappropriate use of time as the panel were at Dumfries to meet and consult with students on proposed cuts at Dumfries.

    Many of the questions asked by students and points raised by them on the proposed Liberal Arts course cuts and on the UoG strategic plan remained unanswered. The consultation process at Dumfries Campus was wholly unsatisfactory and I felt anything but fair and transparent.

  2. Ian says:

    Re the second ‘consultation’ meeting on 23rd March, when asked how much DACE cost the University, Professor Coton WAS UNABLE TO GIVE A FIGURE. After much humming and hawing and visible squirming, a figure of £375,000 was produced. There was indeed a general outcry at this, not to mention a reaction of derision. When further asked where this DACE income goes, Professor Coton WAS UNABLE TO ANSWER! In other words, income from DACE could well be getting diverted to bale out underachieving departments elsewhere on Gilmorehill! WHY was Professor Coton unable to answer this very fundamental and vital question? The gentleman in charge did not know! And we are supposed to have confidence in him?

    If Professor Coton does not have the exact figures at his finger tips, what hope have we got? In vulgar financial terms we are talking £375,000. Surely if cuts are necessary, one starts with the big savings?

    One final thought. There are 5,000 DACE students. Let’s make the modest assumption that they each pay an average of £100 for each course. That equals £500,000, well over the £375,000 quoted above, even allowing for random overheads. DACE is clearly paying its way, however much the honchos tweak the figures. Even if they had the appropriate figures to hand, how can Professor Coton and his acolytes possibly justtify its closure? If, as they believe, DACE does not fit into the ‘strategic programme’, or whatever, perhaps it might just be that the ‘strategic programme’ is wrong? What’s to stop them reviewing the ‘strategic programme’ so that it DOES include DACE? Answer: nothing. They inference must be that they are scared to do so.

  3. Dan says:

    DACE consultation
    There are some real concerns about how these are being conducted. Here the most important ones based on the meeting I attended:
    1. Prof Coton, the Chair of the DACE Consultation Panel and the person leading and directing the meetings, is part of the Senior Management Group that has proposed the cuts. He is obviously, officially biased in favour of the proposals. This means that the consultation process CANNOT possibly be ‘open and transparent’ as Prof Muscatelli and Andrea Nolan have insisted. Unless by ‘open and transparent’ they mean openly Biased and transparently corrupt.
    2. Related to that, is the fact the Prof Coton puts forward SMG’s view in response to attendee’s points. Is this how a consultation panel Chair should operate?
    3. NO MINUTES! A point raised at the meeting, to which Prof Coton responded by saying the ‘digest’ of the meeting would be available online. If anyone disagreed with the content they could ask for amendments. Interestingly, Prof Coton told us that at GU minutes are not taken. In fairness, he trailed off before finishing the sentence. Not quite sure what he meant as at the often lengthy meetings I have attended at GU minutes are always taken. That is why we have ‘minute-takers’ at the meetings. Maybe this meeting wasn’t important enough to justify a recording of comments and discussion. The Clerk of the Consultation Panel was taking very sporadic notes, but she could not have captured the content of the meeting, so there is no detailed ‘official’ record of what was said. Considering the implications of the consultation (courses axed, students excluded from GU, staff made redundant), this is shoddy and disrespectful to staff and students.
    4. Not all Panel members attended. The lay member, Margaret Morton, was absent. This has been the case at other DACE Consultation Panel meetings, too. Prof. Tom Guthrie, the third Panel member, was absent for staff consultation meetings becasue he was on strike! Yet the meetings went ahead. Now, student Panel meetings took place over ONE afternoon and ONE evening last week. Staff meetings took place over ONE afternoon last week and ONE evening this week. How is it possible that all three people appointed to the Panel could not attend those meetings? They were appointed to the Panel – agreed to jojn the Panel. The meetings were scheduled by the Panel, not by DACE. Given the importance of the issues involved (I repeat, courses axed, students excluded from GU, staff made redundant) why were they not all there? How can we have faith in the process when Panel members don’t attend to hear the views of staff and students.

    • Angela McDonald says:

      I too am troubled by the fact that minutes are not being taken to record the views aired at these meetings in detail, especially since once the panel has made its recommendation, Court will depend on the panel’s notes to make its decision about the future of the OP. ‘Digests’ hardly seem adequate. And when I tried to look yesterday on the Consultation website for the ‘digests’ from meetings held with students and staff last week, none were posted yet. This meant that – as Prof Coton indicated – questions were being raised again that had been dealt with at previous meetings. Again, rather unsatisafctory. It also means that students and staff who didn’t manage to attend the meetings will be in this position too if they’re going to email comments to the panel before their imposed deadline of April 4th. Personally, I did manage to attend, despite the inconvenient times, however the meeting held on the strike day should have been re-arranged. We could cite the Principal’s recent last-minute change of venue (requiring the entire School of Education to come to him instead of vice versa) as precedent for this?!

      I thought that Prof Coton’s manner was studiously conciliatory and that he tried very hard to convey his sympathies with the attitudes of staff and students. Sadly, it’s rather symptomatic of the troubled times our University is undergoing that I – and I do regret this – feel I can only respond to such a manner with cynicism. Will we be congratulated for our success and for our students’ determination, loyalty and dedication only to find ourselves at the mercy of a financially-driven SMG suggesting to Court that despite it all we should be sacrificed? Admittedly speaking as devil’s advocate (no irony intended, I assume, in reference to his role as SMG’s representative…), Prof Coton said just because an enterprise like the OP is unique, doesn’t mean it’s worth doing…

  4. Matthew Lee says:

    DACE consultation. I have some sympathy for the panel, but none at all for the absence of a coherent account from management of their reasoning leading to the closure proposal. It forces those contributing to “fire blind”, and allows no scrutiny of areas of weakness or misunderstanding in the initial thinking. The process itself is quite unnecessarily truncated, and while it may be fair it is sufficiently compromised that it does NOT appear to be fair. Justice must be seen to be done, contentious decisions need to be taken in a way that is above reproach. The University have a lot to learn about building trust.

  5. Em Strang says:

    I was only able to attend one of the consultation meetings at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies in Dumfries – notice for both meetings was inadequate and many of us couldn’t make them because of other commitments.
    I have to say, the whole process has been confusing and alarming: there was never any sense that staff and student voices were actually valued in articulating responses to the proposed cuts. Many of us students found out via a kind of off-hand, trickle-down effect which began with the article in the Glasgow Herald. I still feel very much in the dark as to what’s really going on. Trying to obtain ‘honest’ information is nigh on impossible.

  6. Ann Shukman says:

    I attended one of the consultation panels at the Crichton campus, chaired by prof A. Anderson. I came that day totally unprepared and until then unaware of the threats to liberal arts at the campus. Why were us post-grad research students not kept in the loop? I feel still bemused by lack of clarity and am appalled at the stress this is putting our teaching staff under.

  7. MTM says:

    DACE Consultations, 23rd March 2011. (End of 2pm, 3.30pm & 5.15pm meetings)
    I attended two of the three consultations on Wednesday, 23rd March. I managed to catch the end of the 2pm. Meeting, which was absolutely packed with people. There was a lot of anger expressed, general disbelief in the openness of the consultation process and that it did not have a fixed agenda.

    Donny O’Rourke had last comment of the meeting, making an impassioned poetical plea for the continuation of lifelong learning under the auspices of Glasgow University. Many students congratulated him on the way out, and he was his usual modest self, deflecting praise, radiating concern.

    Who was the man in charge of proceedings? I was soon to find out at the start of the next meeting: Prof. F. Coton, member of the Senior Management Group (SMG) & convener of the consultation panel. Also attending were Mary Ramsay (Prof. Coton’s P.A.) and Prof. Guthrie (Senior Academic on the consultation panel). For the third & final meeting of the day, Ms Morton, the lay member of court on the consultation panel joined.
    The meeting began with a short presentation. Apparently of all the university departments, DACE has “a less obvious fit” of three aspects of the SMG’s new criteria: Funding/Research, Global Reach or Student Experience. The consultation process is to be open in addressing those issues.

    Asked how many letters he had received in support of DACE, Prof. Coton replied, “Over 1,500.” He was asked if the DACE staff were consulted on the new criteria,”Yes, all university staff were consulted over the last eighteen months to form the new strategy.”

    He said that the university was looking at other models of Adult Learning in other institutions. A student commented that, in her experience, other providers did not have the experience of Glasgow University DACE staff and did not provide such a wide variety of courses. Strathclyde courses were hard to access, and were often already booked. In any case, how could anyone provide 5000 places! Concern was expressed that in outsourcing learning to other institutions would limit the breadth of provision of subjects, and that we would lose out in a crossover of disciplines if DACE was changed. The loss of experienced and dedicated DACE staff would also be worrying.

    Someone asked,” Just how much of a drain on university resources is DACE?” After a long explanation of the £20 million savings they were expected to make, and the current £3 million proposals, Prof. Coton admitted DACE cost £375,000.There was a general out cry at this, people were actually amazed that all this upset was to save such a paltry sum! Of course then the same question was asked at the 5.15pm meeting, the answer was “less than a million pounds.” My colleague pointed out the actual sum, again to general amazement.

    Prof. Coton stressed that money wasn’t the prime motive for considering DACE, referring to the forward plan saying “we didn’t say ‘Where could we save the most money?’If we did that, then we would have to cut massive parts of the uni programme.” DACE staff were not to be seen as’ units of cost’, and the short consultation period was an attempt to remove the uncertainty for the staff. Every activity in the university produces income flow, but that for DACE, income/expenditure flow is weak. However, financial considerations were not the main reason to look at DACE, but the strategy ‘non fit’.

    Someone asked, ”Why did the consultation not come first, then the proposals?” Prof. Coton assured us the consultations are to test the proposals. The SMG, in coming to the view that it held about the open programme did not have all the facts to hand, and this is the purpose of the consultation.

    A student made the point that if funded and research based subjects are to be favoured, then what in effect is happening is some subjects are to be deemed more important than others. She expressed concern the university was no longer interested in broad based education, and that ‘ global outreach’ as commensurate with the new strategy would mean more students from the middle east, and less from the west end of Glasgow.

    A clear point was made that withdrawing from DACE is going to impact severely on the local economy: less course books would be bought and local business would suffer. This would severely damage the good standing and reputation of the university.
    Another speaker indicated the depth of impact on further education and provision for lifelong learners, just when there is going to be an increase of people keen to take up this service, due to retirement and an increasingly active aging population!
    Prof. Coton said that statistical data of areas of deprivation showed that students of lifelong learning have similar demographics to the undergraduate student population, so there would be no wide impact sociologically, if the provision for adult education were to change.

    However, a primary school teacher present informed the professor she was studying music through DACE, and this enabled her to access a level of study better than her own CPD (Continual Professional Development) could offer, and in fact this had a large impact on her local community, since she ran a choir in her school, in the east end of the city.

    A young lady, a single parent of three children spoke very movingly about her choice to study through DACE as a route out of poverty. She wondered if her accredited course would continue next year, as she had to complete her certificate. She was using her knowledge to teach sustainable gardening at her local primary school. She was trying to be a good example to her children, hoping to show them the value of hard work to improve their situation.
    The point was made of the huge diversity of people accessing study through DACE courses; those with no formal qualifications, postgraduate students, those who enhanced the quality of life through continuing to study a wide range of subjects: Creative Writing, Literature, German, Russian, Poetry, Astronomy….studying together in a great mix….true diversity. And, of course DACE can be used as an access to fulltime study. Someone pointed out to Prof. Coton there must be statistical data for DACE students who have gone on to undergraduate courses: was that information available to the panel? That would have been helpful information!

    An Archaeology student made pointed out there has already been massive upset through losing staff on his course, and that a DACE student he feels massively undervalued by the university. There is a complete lack of resources compared to undergraduate students. We have had no representation till recently from the SRC.

    Prof. Coton had informed us in his presentation that the College of Social Science did not see the open programme as part of their overall plan. A student pointed out, however, that if the contribution of DACE students were taken as a whole (as opposed to each separate dept.) then their overall impact on the institution of the university could not be minimised.

    Someone asked if there were to be restructuring, then could each individual subject be hosted in their relevant departments? Prof. Coton said a guaranteed option would be to look at each individual subject group subsumed into the university departments. Someone expressed, in that case, an opinion that the expertise and separate identity of DACE would be lost.

    Another student expressed the view that the value of DACE has been simply incalculable in her life. Having heard of the courses through the Maggie Centre, she has been attending a poetry class for two years. In fact a great example to her had been a lovely man she had at Maggies, and who encouraged her to study at DACE. They both joined the class together, but he died a few months later. He had been determined to attend every class he could, despite his illness, becoming an inspiration to his fellow students and a passionate advocate of continuing lifelong education.

    A lady expressed her opinion that nowadays money and international reputation override the common good. We should be defending the Egalitarianism of Scottish Education as a principle, not rampant individualism. DACE provides disinterested education, it cannot be seen in purely financial terms. Science courses can be research driven and funded with grants, but Humanities research has a less direct link to money. That does not mean it is of less value. A short term society looks at financial gains only. The humanities subjects contribute to critical thought, and the ability to analyse. How can we put a monetary value on DACE?

    A gentleman pointed out that the university charter states education should be offered to all, in whatever circumstances, so surely it should take its commitment to the local community seriously? Several times it was pointed out the hidden impact of DACE on the local community both socially and economically. And as someone asked, “Why does the university think disengaging from the local community will increase its attraction to other students? Surely these two things are mutually exclusive?”

    As to ‘global reach’ presently the overseas students do not count towards the funded undergraduate places which are a fixed number. Glasgow University has a lower proportion of international students compared to other universities, but this must change, we were informed. The Scottish Funding Council funds a certain number of DACE places, but due to an anomaly, these places could be transferred to undergraduate places. This will be a key decision. Exactly where this would leave DACE was not specified.

    A new contributor suggested opening digital ‘taster’ classes streamed throughout the summer, charging money to generate income for the new term. Another suggestion was to extend DACE provision to degree level. The point was made that already some DACE classes are oversubscribed, and that even though the fees were increased this year, still student numbers increased. So, DACE is relevant, diverse, popular and already fulfilling the criteria!

    Each of the meetings was well attended, but in each case, some people had to leave early, without managing to get their point across. One young lady left very upset, convinced the consultation was just a ‘tick box’ exercise, and her views were not being listened to.
    A very thoughtful man indicated the university would no longer be a beneficiary of his will if DACE provision was withdrawn!
    Once again, Prof Coton thanked us for our contributions, and asked us to let the panel know by 3rd April, our view of the open programme, our own student experience of DACE , and other proposals we would like to be considered.

    So Students:
    What can you add to the consultation process?
    To what extend does DACE impact on the local community?
    How does learning benefit you as a person?
    Have you gone on to further study?
    Does DACE impact or benefit your professional development?
    How has it changed your life? LET YOUR VOICE COUNT!

  8. Amy Anderson says:

    I attended the Open Programme Consultation meeting held on the evening of the 24th March with Professor Coton and I listened with interest in what he had to say. I appreciate that they want to hear the views and experiences of individuals on the Open Programme, however it was unclear how people’s views are going to be collected, quantified, analysed and reported on.

    To my knowledge there was no one taking notes on the individual information and testimonials students brought to the session. And while I know that the Court/Consultation team have invited students to give their feedback via emails and letters, this to me is a rather unstructured and vague way of collecting this data.

    A serious consultation would contact as many students as possible via registration lists, (to my knowledge, all the requests to respond to this consultation have come via the Save Dace campaign) with structured research tools, such as a standard questionnaire, one to one interviews and even focus groups – asking questions on benefits and impacts and the extent to which the benefits are unique to DACE. This evidence would then be analysed and assessed and written up with quantitative and or qualitative findings.

    Critically, such a consultation would offer people more time to respond than we have been offered.

    I’ve sent this comment to the Consultation team and asked them to assure me that all our views will be quantified in a way that accurately measures the extent magnitude of soft outcomes across the DACE student body that are clearly coming through. I have also asked if this evidence will be made available to us.

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