A LEADING university course for drug and alcohol workers is to close after the Scottish Government withdrew funding.

Glasgow University said it would shut the Scottish Training on Drugs and Alcohol (Strada) centre next year after financial support of more than £500,000 was withdrawn in March.

The university said the 50 students currently enrolled on courses would all be allowed to complete their studies to ensure no-one was disadvantaged.

However, students expressed concern that the quality of courses would not be the same with a number of key staff due to leave.

International student MaryLisa Emery, who travelled from California to enrol in a Masters on drug and alcohol, said the move was short-sighted.

She said: "Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, have a real problem with substances and educated workers like the ones produced from this course are desperately needed in the field.

"I came across the world for this program to learn under the specialists who are now under threat of losing their jobs.

"The university is supposed to be a charity and a place of higher education, but this decision to close the course is a blemish to both of those titles."

There was also concern the Scottish Government has backtracked on a pledge to use education to tackle drug abuse.

A 2008 document setting out future strategy called The Road to Recovery stated: "Appropriate education and training must be available to help ensure staff are able to practice in a recovery focussed way.

"Strada is funded by the Government to provide drugs and alcohol misuse training across Scotland. They will have a key role in delivering this cultural change."

A spokeswoman for Glasgow University said the problem of funding was exacerbated by the closure of UK drugs charity Drugscope, which had also supported the programme.

She said: "Owing to the removal of external government funding, in the wake of the liquidation of the Drugscope charity, the university has had to take the difficult decision to close recruitment of any new students to these drug and alcohol courses.

"The university is aware of the concerns of current students and is working hard to offer reassurance and resolve these concerns.

"We are committed to ensuring all students currently registered on courses are supported to complete their studies, whether at Masters, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate level."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the unexpected closure of the Drugscope had "significant implications" for the work of Strada and the courses at Glasgow University, which have received central funding for the past 14 years.

She said: "Although these circumstances were out of our control, the Scottish Government has been working hard to protect the legacy of Strada and secure a future for this important work to improve the quality of drug and alcohol services in Scotland.

"The Scottish Government continues with its priority of supporting workforce development across the sector to further improve the skills of those delivering drug and alcohol services in Scotland."

The spokeswoman said the decision to close the course after 2016 was one for Glasgow University.

She added: "Universities are autonomous institutions with responsibility for their own course provision, staffing and costs and we are aware that other institutions in Scotland provide courses on a similar basis, in the absence of specific financial support from the Scottish Government's justice budget."

An estimated 52,000 people in Scotland are problem drug users, up to 60,000 children are affected by the drug problems of one or more parent and there is an estimated economic and social cost of £2.6 billion every year.

DrugScope was a UK-wide membership organisation for professionals working to tackle drug and alcohol abuse and represented more than 400 organisations involved in treatment, supporting recovery, young people's services, drug education and services for prisoners.