Textile students launch petition

STUDENTS concerned at Heriot-Watt University’s review of its Galashiels-based School of Textiles, which could see 10 jobs lost, have launched an online petition, writes Kenny Paterson.

It is addressed to Professor Steve Chapman, prinicipal of the university, after last week’s announcement.

Heriot-Watt officials admitted this week the school had a £500,000 deficit for the current financial year.

The savings required could mean a quarter of the Netherdale campus’s 40 staff being made redundant, but students have demanded that the workforce be saved.

The petition to Professor Chapman reads: “We, the students, are writing to you to express our concerns about the recent staff restructuring plans within the School of Textiles and Design, Scottish Borders Campus.

“The school has a long history of fantastic staff and technicians shaping and teaching our students to be among the best in the world.

“As students we cannot rest easy with the thought of key members of staff leaving and student-staff contact time being reduced.

“We appreciate the need to make our school financially viable and would urge that every avenue is explored to make sure our quality contact time is not affected by these proposed changes and the members of staff who make our school what it is are kept at all costs.

“We urge you to take the views of your students into account during your consultation and ensure you preserve the quality of our student experience as a first priority.”

Meetings took place last week after the news, with South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume holding discussions with university and college union officials.

He believes the School of Textiles should be developed into a key research and learning facility rather than being cut back, citing Glasgow University’s Crichton Campus in Dumfries as an example of such a successful hub.

He added: “The Heriot-Watt campus in Gala is so important for employment and learning opportunities and the news last week that a quarter of its staff could be lost is a devastating blow.

“It is vitally important that we take action to avoid another ‘lost generation’ of young people lacking the necessary skills and experience to get ahead in a competitive job market.”

“Only by investing in access to opportunities for skills development will this be avoided.”

A university spokeswoman said Heriot-Watt was committed to the long-term future of the school, and to the quality of teaching for students, but in doing so required the school to operate sustainably.

The spokeswoman saids: “For several years, the university has favoured the School of Textiles and Design financially, recognising the higher costs of educating students in this specialism including teaching, facilities and capital investment.

“Even with this allowance, the school remains in deficit.”

The school was founded in 1883, making it the second oldest institution of its kind in the world.