Students at a Glasgow-based college were in full protest yesterday amid proposals to axe courses within the institution’s creative arts portfolio.
The demonstration of support for under-fire sound production and music performance courses at North Glasgow College launched late yesterday morning with support from students across the city together with alumni.
The Springburn college confirmed earlier this week it is set to shelve NC Sound and Media in addition to HND Sound and HND Music ahead of the next academic year, albeit current first year students will be able to transition to second year to complete their qualification.
The curriculum restructuring is also set to impact 80 prospective students who had been offered places for the popular courses with 400 applicants alone for the two HND courses. Letters will be sent to affected students over the course of the next week explaining courses will no longer be available, The Journal understands.
In an often heated question and answer session with students, lecturers, and parents yesterday, principal Ronnie Knox explained the background behind a potential reduction in provision and 31 full-time equivalent staff - including 26 lecturers - through voluntary severance as part of £1million of cuts in 2011-12.
A further drop in public funding of £823,000 for 2012-13 had forced the further education institution into seeking to dispense with an additional 16 members of staff, it was claimed.
North Glasgow principal Knox yesterday insisted a drop in government funding for the forthcoming academic year left the institution with little choice but to consider cost-cutting measures.
He said: “At the moment, we gave an indication of a whole load of areas. Sound and music was one of them but it wasn’t the only one. It included electrical and plumbing, photography, social care, and health care. We are in a position where we have 13.8 full-time equivalents who have accepted voluntary severance.
“I’m not saying if the circumstances would have been different they would necessarily have left, but we are where we are. It’s not the fault of, or a dilemma created by, the college, it was created by the government who took £74m out of this sector.
“The important thing for us is that we have not made decisions that are definitive yet, and no HN student on any of these programmes will lose their place for next year. No student, and that’s with the impact of the voluntary severance. What we don’t know is what the outcome of this will be, we will know the results tomorrow night, or probably by Friday.”
Knox later confirmed the voluntary severance scheme had been extended until Friday afternoon with the outcome unknown until next week. Despite his assertions that no final decision had been made to cut courses, The Journal understands lecturers were told by the head of faculty earlier this week that a decision had already been reached.
Current students are concerned that the college will struggle to teach the remaining 50 students preparing to enter the second year of their course in September as redundancies leave only three teaching staff and no specialist tutors for instruments including piano, bass, drums, and composition.
The move could see tutors employed on an ongoing basis to fill gaps left by departing specialist staff with students raising concerns the college will be unable to fully deliver the HND year on such a skeletal workforce.
In the wake of news the courses faced closure in four months time, Ryan MacDowell, a first-year music performance student, said: “It was gutting. The panic of not having the course to go on to a degree course and even though we have got it, it’s not going to be run the way it has run. It’s such a good access to the industry and has such a reputation.
“I got a record deal two months ago, and I got it presuming that I would do my HND, and so now that there’s going to be three lecturers teaching so many, it’s not really going to fulfil the HND in the way it should. And I got [the record deal] on this basis.
“It’s the fact that people can’t do that now it’s not there. My two managers did the course as well, and they’ve both got their own businesses, and it’s affecting a lot more people than just us at college. It’s more than a qualification.”
MacDowell added: “It’s like [the college management] have a view that we’re doing this course, and we’re not going to do anything relevant with it. James [Allan] from Glasvegas, he came through here…he left here less than five years ago.”
Jacklyn McConachie, enrolled on the same course, added: “It’s a shame that people who really want to do this course and go into the industry aren’t going to get the same opportunity that we had. It’s life changing, they know what they’re talking about – they’re proper industry professionals.
“I got an unconditional offer to go to study the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. And before I came here I enquired about going there and they said, ‘no, you can’t do that’. But now I’ve done this course, I’m going into my second year, and I’m getting unconditional offers. That has got to say something for the course. It’s a prestigious place.”
Amander Dwyer, also a music performance student, added: “I did the NQ course last year, and that got cut this year, which is pretty sad, because some people will not have the qualification to come straight into HND. I was really upset and heartbroken. I play piano and my piano tutor has been made redundant, so I’m not going to have a piano tutor next year. And I’ve learned so much. I am furious.”
The protest against the course closures was backed by North Glasgow College Students’ Association (NGCSA) and NUS Scotland, while Glasgow band Glasvegas, which has ties to the college, are also understood to be seeing how they can help.
Opposition to the course closures has also seen the Protect Our Music, Photography & Sound (POMP&S) Facebook group swell to over 5,000 members in less than a week, while an e-petition has been established calling on Knox to ditch the plans.
NGCSA executive officer, Claire Haswell, said: “We are looking for answers from the principal on why, at a time of economic uncertainty and when companies are shedding staff and the public sector is contracting, those who create are being punished.
"These courses and others like them across Scotland’s colleges develop our artistic talent. They need to be protected.
“North Glasgow College needs to re-evaluate its decision to cut these vital courses and reinstate them, so that arts in Scotland can continue to be supported and encouraged.”