Monday, 29 January 2007

Out of the kithcen into the fire

Cripes, have I been busy! I am a student at Glasgow University's satellite, or outreach, campus in Dumfries (Crichton Campus) and about two weeks ago we all recieved news that due to an operating deficit and lack of funding from the Scottish Funding Council, the university is considering withdrawing from the site. So since then my dissertation has been abandoned in favour of placard waving and signature collecting. I have been in and out of meetings and I even hugged one of my lecturers by mistake. You should have seen the poor man's face. Needless to say the house is even more of a tip than ever and I've been living off dried fruit and chocolate. I think I may smell.

Anyway, here is the full story: Glasgow Univeristy has a relatively new principal: Sir Muir Russell, appointed in 2003. He is the civil servant who was in charge of the Scottish Parliament building that, if anyone remembers, went over budget by £440 million squids. He eventually fell foul of the first minister when he hired 40 new policy advisors without getting permission. Hence he resigned and was offered the post at Glasgow. It seems senior civil servants can't be sacked no matter how craply incompetent they are. And someone thought putting him in a position of such power over the nation's education was a good idea! I'd have thought that someone with a passion for education and perhaps some experience of education would have been a better bet, but what do I know?

Anyway, in his inaugural speech at Glasgow Russell said he saw himself as an agent for change. Last year he made 260 redundancies and forced various departments to tighten their belts. This year he is trying to close us down. Yet he has just been awarded (and accepted) a pay rise of 15% taking his package up to £211,000 (ish). The university currently has an operating surplus of £2 million but says the Crichton campus is losing them £800k a year, so we must go.

But, according to certain sources this sum has been inflated by manipulating the figures to make it look like all the unfunded (marginal to use the funding council's term) students are in Dumfries. Does this make sense? It seems to me the 'agent for change' is trying to make a name for himself by centralising in order to increase the operating surplus. Therefore, not taking into consideration that the purpose of a university is to educate, not turn in a profit. A university is not a business, and although it can't sustain continuous losses it's not there to make capital. Also, the campus at Dumfries has only been up and running for seven years so they haven't exactly given it time to make good. Yet we are the fastest growing campus, I believe, in Scotland with an increase of 14% in student intake as opposed to the average 3%.

Lord, if anyone is actually bothering to read this you must be pretty bored by now, I do apologise but I must get it off my chest. One last thing: pulling out of the Crichton campus very much goes against two of the four points in the University's mission statement. We have got to get ourselves a good solid case to step up our campaign. If there is anyone out there who knows about such things any tips would be most welcome.


Kim Ayres said...

It is scary when the decisions of one power-mad, failed civil servant can adversely affect the education and future of thousands of people.

I hope they are persuaded to change their mind

Kitchen Bitch said...

Well we will be working hard to try and ensure that they do change their minds. I'm not sure if I'm hopeful or not. H.R. came down today and they didn't seem to know what was going on so maybe the decision hasn't been quite take yet. Sir Muir Russell, the principal, is coming to dumfries on the 20th of March for the Crichton conversation, whatever that is, so we will be trying to stage an enormous demo then. If you know anyone who would be interested in joining us please let me know.

Kim Ayres said...

I read in the Courier that Glasgow have definitely decided to pull out. Bastards. It's so short sighted.

Do remind me a bit closer to March 20th