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Plea to replace ‘no longer viable’ Cupar college campus

MSP Willie Rennie at Elmwood Campus
MSP Willie Rennie at Elmwood Campus

A new college campus for north-east Fife was called for following a revelation that Elmwood Campus is no longer considered viable.

MSP Willie Rennie urged the Scottish Government’s further education, higher education and science minister Shirley-Anne Somerville to broker a deal for a new building to replace the ageing facilities in Cupar.

Following the withdrawal of Fife College last year there have been doubts over the future of Elmwood, now run solely by Scotland’s Rural College SRUC.

Concerns will be further fuelled by the Scottish Funding Council’s statement that following the transfer of Fife College’s courses elsewhere “provision at the Elmwood Campus of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is no longer viable”.

He said: “I know the minister will be keen to assist and will want to provide sufficient guarantees to ensure there is a vibrant centre of education in the heart of north-east Fife for years to come.

“I want her to broker an agreement between Fife College and SRUC, find the revenue for student activity to ensure a critical mass of activity and a new building to replace the existing ageing buildings.”

Speaking during a Holyrood debate he secured about the campus, Mr Rennie claimed when the government decided to split Elmwood between Fife College and SRUC it left it rudderless.

He said the settlement was “inherently unstable”, leaving Fife College with none of the assets but a share of the costs.

The college in Cupar started in the 1950s to serve the area’s agricultural industry is essential, he said, but its current 1960s building has significant maintenance costs.

He said: “We will need a new building which is fit for purpose and combines the needs for rural education with SRUC and further education through Fife College.”

Although the aims of a study commissioned by the Scottish Funding Council into further education in north-east Fife sounded promising, he said, decisions were needed now.

Ms Somerville welcomed SRUC’s assurance it had no plans to leave Elmwood and was actively recruiting students for the new academic year.

The funding council’s review is due, she said, to be completed in the first week of May

She said: “I look forward to it identifying a model for the area that works best for SRUC and Fife College but most importantly works best for the region and the people of north-east Fife.”

She also said SRUC was developing a strategic plan including a review of its estate and, as it is an autonomous body, the Scottish Government and ministers were unable to intervene.

She added: “We would, however, expect the decisions to be made that will have a wider impact on Fife to be made in full consultation with staff and students and that consideration be given to minimising the impact on the student experience.”

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