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Outrage at 'poor quality' of degrees facing axe

A SCOTTISH university has been accused of running down the quality of degree courses due to be closed down in 2015.

Academics and students at Strathclyde University said levels of staffing proposed for courses in geography, music, sociology and community education were "completely unacceptable".

And they called for the university to introduce incentives for staff to ensure sufficient numbers stayed on until the degree programmes closed.

However, the university said all degree programmes would be staffed to ensure future quality.

The row follows controversy last year when Strathclyde University decided to close four of its degree programmes, arguing they were under-performing in research, not financially viable and at odds with its core strategy of becoming a leading European technological university.

There was an immediate backlash, with opposition from Margaret Curran, a Labour MP and former minister in the Scottish Executive, and internationally renowned academic and political activist Professor Noam Chomsky, who said the university's plans were "very odd".

After a short consultation, the proposals won overwhelming backing at a meeting of the university Senate, which represents academics, as well as the ruling Court.

The university pledged students on the courses would not have an inferior experience as a result of the closures.

But members of the UCU Scotland lecturers' union argue the university is trying to deliver the courses with too few staff.

A spokesman said: "We remain firmly opposed to the closure of the four subjects because we believe this to be a short-sighted and socially irresponsible decision. However, in the interests of staff and students, we have engaged with management to discuss staffing and delivery of these subject areas until their final closure in 2015.

"Unfortunately, the university's plans seem to be more about penny-pinching and the reductions in staff proposed will have a terrible impact on students.

"The university cannot deliver a quality degree to the students that remain, which they are legally obliged to do, if they impose this plan."

He said key staff were leaving the courses, including sociology professor David Miller, who has taken up a prestigious professorship at Bath University, and added: "We need a plan to retain and support staff rather than see numbers reducing further."

Charandeep Singh, president of the university's students' association, is to take up the matter with the university's management.

He said: "Last year, students were vocal in their opposition to these course closures and students were promised a quality degree regardless of the outcome.

"As president of the student's union we are calling on the university to retain the expertise of staff from these courses in order to guarantee appropriate delivery of these unique degrees."

One of the students affected said: "The staffing proposals offer a skeletal approach to staffing with no thought to proper supervision or what is required to deliver to each student an acceptable level of class choice.

"Students are expressing real concerns about the ways in which the university proposes to deliver the courses in question."

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde University said: "The university is confident that it will continue to deliver the same high quality of provision to affected students through to the end of their courses."

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