Edinburgh University has fiercely rebuked claims in the Edinburgh Evening News that it plans to sell its Moray House School of education, saying that the idea is “very wide of the mark.”
It was suggested that the campus would be sold earlier this week after cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning Mike Russell said that the university “plans over the long-term to dispose of its Moray House school campus”, in response to a parliamentary question.
But University bosses have dismissed the claims and Russell’s answer has now been clarified, showing that no such plans exist.
Patrick McLaughlin, head of Moray House, told The Journal: “The article was based on misinformation, rumour and the answer given by the cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell, to a parliamentary question. An answer that he later acknowledged to be incorrect.”
Mr Russell made the statement in a written response to Labour schools spokesperson, Ken Macintosh. A Scottish government later issued a clarification, saying;
“As clearly stated in our reply to the parliamentary question from Ken MacIntosh MSP, the University of Edinburgh, as an autonomous institution, is responsible for managing its own estate. The Scottish government does not have any role in such matters.
“However, we now recognise, from discussions with the University of Edinburgh, that there are no plans to sell off Moray House Campus.”
The university has said that certain buildings in the Holyrood area, where Moray House is situated, have been “identified as surplus to requirements of core academic business”. However, it is understood that these buildings are not used for teaching.
A university spokesperson said: “It is also the case that we are seeking to maximise space to expansion on the rest of the site.”
Moray House is preparing for drastic cuts after reductions in funding from the Scottish government. Places on the Primary Postgraduate Diploma will be cut from 280 to 66 next year, whilst the Secondary diploma will see a fall in numbers from 186 to 142.
The Evening news article claimed that university insiders “had strong hints” that the university was planning to scrap its BEd primary teaching course, a claim that has also been denied by Mr McLaughlin.
Evan Beswick, Vice President of Academic Affairs at EUSA, has said that he is “frustrated” by Russell’s claim, saying that the students’ association will ensure that degrees are “taught to the highest possible standard”.
Mr Beswick said: “It’s really important at a time like this to ensure worried staff and students are kept well informed. I’m glad the cabinet secretary has withdrawn his remarks regarding the sale of Moray House.
“But it’s frustrating and a little bit disrespectful to people within the school to foment panic with rumour and speculation- particularly when it’s an SNP decision that has directly caused the cuts.”
He added: “There’s going to be disruption, but we’ve had a specific commitment that the university will honour its commitment to ensure every student who has started a degree can finish it.”
A meeting of the University Court earlier in the month agreed to set up a redundancy committee to deal with reductions in activity, which was considered necessary given funding cuts. It is understood that the university hopes to avoid compulsory redundancy.
An Edinburgh University spokesperson said, “The University remains fully committed to the provision of undergraduate and postgraduate education teaching courses at Moray House. On the matter of the recent reduction in the requirement for, and consequently the funding of, Initial Teacher Education the university continues to seek to find the best possible response to this and is doing so in full consultation with staff and unions.”