Academics from five Scottish universities have joined together to express their "dismay" that a well-known trade union education centre in Glasgow is at risk of closure.

In a letter published in The Herald, the academics, who said that they all "research, teach or have a close interest in industrial relations" said that they were "dismayed" to learn that the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Education Centre at City of Glasgow College could close this year as part of the college's cost-saving measures.

Since the college announced last week that it was considering allowing its partnership contract with the TUC to expire this summer, trade unionists have spoken out against the potential closure. 

In today's letter, the university academics cited recent studies from the Office for National Statistics which found that trade union membership has increased by 2.6% in Scotland in 2023. 

In light of this, they said that the country should be looking to expand its offering for trade union education rather than making cutbacks, and called on City of Glasgow College to keep the TUC EC up and running.

"The unit has delivered high quality generalist and bespoke education in vital areas, including health and safety, representation, employment law, equalities and discrimination, to many thousands of trade union representatives over decades.

"Not only do learners receive training that enhances their ability to make their workplaces fairer – a Scottish Government objective – it develops them as individuals in incalculable ways. The TU Education is a critical bridge to lifelong learning."

Read more: Scot college head challenged over closure of 'vital' resource

Today's letter follows a similar plea from trade unionists, who last week sent a letter to First Minister John Swinney asking for him to intervene and keep the TUC EC operational.

And earlier this week, Scottish Labour education spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy challenged college leadership to explain its reasons for the proposed closure and rethink its stance.

“I also asked him to share with me what engagement he has had with the SFC, because the SFC requires to be consulted in cases of voluntary severance.

“The course is invaluable, and so are the jobs of the dedicated teaching staff within it.

“It’s vital that a solution is reached asap and that the Centre stays open.”

During a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's Education, Children and Young Peoples' Committee on Wednesday morning, Ms Duncan-Glancy asked SFC chief executive Karen Watt if the SFC has been consulted on all voluntary severance attempts in the country. 

Ms Watt confirmed the SFC was aware of all voluntary severance schemes across Scotland's colleges. 

Despite the motions of support for the TUC EC, City of Glasgow College has maintained that the centre has operated at a deficit for years, running below capacity and seeing requests for placements dwindle in recent years.

A college spokesperson said: “Currently, the Trade Union Congress Education Centre (TUC EC) is operating at a vastly reduced capacity because of the continued downturn in demand for trade union education.  

"Many trade unions are now seeking alternative in-house training for their lay union representatives, rather than sourcing this training from the College. 

"The TUC Education Centre has cost the College some £150,000 annually to operate, and unless additional, long-term funding is forthcoming it will remain financially unsustainable. 

“While we continue to make the case for increased investment in the sector, the reality is all colleges in Scotland are facing significant multi-year funding challenges and are having to find big savings and generate additional income.

"As Scotland's largest college, we are projecting a deficit for academic year 2024/25 of almost £2 million, and we are therefore exploring every option to balance the books as we are required to do."