THE student president of Heriot-Watt’s Galashiels campus is hopeful that more staff can be employed at the university’s Netherdale base after it picked up two national awards in the same week.
Heriot-Watt was named Scottish University of the Year in the National Student Survey (NSS), while the higher education establishment picked up the same title from the much-respected Sunday Times University Guide for the second year in a row. The national newspaper also named Heriot-Watt, whose main campus is in Edinburgh, as having the best student experience in the UK.
The double accolade follows the university announcing the need for cuts at its School of Textiles and Design in Galashiels in May.
Compulsory redundancies were avoided, but around 10 staff voluntarily left in the summer, although new posts were also created.
And Katie Barr, student president of the Scottish Borders Campus, believes there will no need for further job losses in the foreseeable future.
She told TheSouthern: “With our reputation, it is likely we will attract more students and that means the university will need more staff.
“Now the school is on a more stable financial footing we are hopeful that will happen. There are a number of ex-students who could be employed and that would also help the graduate jobs market, which is tough just now.
“I read more into the NSS award because that is final-year students who rate their time at university. We were also rated the best art and design school in Scotland in the NSS which is fantastic.
“We have class representatives who work closely with staff to identify any problems very quickly. The students can also see us working closely with (university principal) Steve Chapman, who has a soft spot for the school.
“We now have a beautiful campus and that also helps to attract students.
“We have had no complaints regarding contact time with staff and I think that is another reason for our success.”
Mary Senior, Scottish representative of the University and College Union, said it was a “great relief” that no compulsory redundancies were needed.
But she said: “It was an unhappy and concerning time for our members during the consultation period and I think some great unhappiness still remains among the staff.
“It is very heartening that Heriot-Watt has been named University of the Year and this shows the strength of the university without cuts being made.
“The UCU do not like the league table idea and Heriot-Watt’s position was based on student satisfaction.
“However, it does show the importance of teaching and importance of having staff able to support the students.
“The concerns about the job cuts in Galashiels were because we feared it would jeopardise that whole position. It was a gradual process over the summer months, but we are happy that through re-organisation no compulsory redundancies were needed.
“We are hopeful that we will not have to go through this again in the near future, as, I am sure, are the university.”
Professor Chapman, who has also overseen the opening of a new £12million student residences at Netherdale this summer, said: “Being Scottish University of the Year, number one in UK for student experience and voted number one in Scotland by students is a fantastic hat-trick.
“At Heriot-Watt, we put great effort into exceptional student experience by striving to consistently deliver excellent facilities, teaching and support services.
“These positive results represent a real strength of feeling among our students and real professionalism on the part of the staff.”
Jim Hume, MSP for the South of Scotland, led the calls to save jobs at Heriot-Watt.
He told us: “I congratulate Heriot-Watt on their achievements, which have again put the spotlight on the role of the university in the Borders.
“Its presence in Galashiels is a huge boon for the town and the whole of the Borders. The recent staffing changes were unfortunate, although compulsory redundancies were avoided, but for the future I want to see Heriot-Watt management proactively working with staff to explore options for expanding courses and activities that will maximise funding streams.”
Alastair McCall, editor of The Sunday Times University Guide, added: “It is unprecedented for a university to win a national title two years running. That Heriot-Watt has achieved this arises from its stellar performance in our UK league table where it soars to ninth position overall.
“It can thank its students in large part for this achievement, rating the quality of their teaching, assessment and feedback here ahead of Oxford and just a shade behind Cambridge.
“Its long-standing success in the graduate jobs market is testimony to the strong foundations on which this year’s league table success is built.
“Employers rate Heriot-Watt graduates highly; the students hold the university itself in similar regard.”