Textile students’ job loss fears

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THE potential loss of up to 10 jobs at the Borders school of textiles has raised fears among students that the standard of teaching will be adversely affected.

Staff at Heriot-Watt University’s Galashiels campus were called to a meeting on Monday and told of the cuts, believed to equate to a quarter of its 40-strong workforce.

Student Union president Katie Barr said the university’s high standards had to be maintained, despite Heriot-Watt officials admitting the school is strapped for cash. She told TheSouthern: “Heriot-Watt University is renowned for delivering outstanding textiles and design degrees at the Scottish Borders campus.

“While the Student Union appreciates the need for the university to maintain a viable service, we are concerned that the reputation of our school in Galashiels will suffer as a result of these cuts.

“We will work with the university to ensure that the quality of teaching is maintained and that any changes have a minimal impact on the student experience.”

The school of textiles and design came under the wing of Heriot-Watt in 1998, but its history dates back to 1883, making it the second oldest institution of its kind in the world.

Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame plans to meet a senior member of staff at the Galashiels campus today to discuss the news, having brought up the issue with Scottish Government education minister, Mike Russell.

She said: “The potential implications of this move by Heriot-Watt to abolish ten posts at the Galashiels campus could be extremely detrimental to the future of the school and for the local economy, which has been strongly linked to textile production since Victorian times.”

Further condemnation came from the University and College Union (UCU), which believes lecturers may lose their jobs to make way for researchers recruited from other textile schools in order to boost ratings.

UCU Scottish official Mary Senior said: “Following the Scottish Government’s commitment to higher education in the budget, we question the need for such drastic cuts in the proportion of staff.

“This will have a severe impact on Galashiels in terms of job losses, but also because textiles are so important to the local economy.

“The textile college merged with Heriot-Watt to help it survive, but the university is again attempting to cut jobs rather than develop the staff.”

A spokeswoman for Heriot-Watt said the university is reviewing its operations, which includes a five-year plan to ensure the textile school survives its current financial difficulties.

She said: “The plan, which is based on thorough reviews of the school’s operations and research profile, recognises the need for savings and improvement of income streams in light of the current overall school deficit.

“It will focus on core, financially sustainable activities, a restructuring of the staffing profile, an increasing focus on research activity and improving international student recruitment.

“As part of this process, the school is undergoing a consultation on implementation of the plan including more flexible staffing arrangements such as redeployment and overall working hours.

“The university is working closely with staff and unions to ensure that changes can be made through voluntary means where possible.”