Fife College has been accused of poor handling of the withdrawal from its Cupar campus amid concerns about the impact on vulnerable students with learning disabilities. Tay Bridgehead councillor Tim Brett voiced anger there was no hint of the news to come when he spoke to the college vice-principal just days before the announcement of its departure from Elmwood in 2016. Mr Brett claimed it had failed to consult students, local schools and families of schoolchildren expecting to progress to supported learning courses at the campus, which is shared with agricultural college SRUC. He said: “I’m disappointed, annoyed and frankly angry about the way this has come out. “It seems to be a very poor way of conducting business, without any consultation with families, users, schools or councillors in the area affected.” The Fife Liberal Democrat leader said he had been contacted by a family worried about their son, a Madras College pupil who is among many at the St Andrews school who receive additional support and intended to go to Elmwood. Mr Brett said: “These are vulnerable youngsters who can just about manage to get to Elmwood. “I don’t think it’s viable to say to someone like them that they are going to have to get on a bus to Kirkcaldy or elsewhere.” Fife College declined to respond to Mr Brett’s comments, referring The Courier back to the statement released last Wednesday confirming speculation over Elmwood’s future. It said: “We remain committed to ensuring that a range of courses and learning opportunities are available for people in north-east Fife and are looking at the best way to achieve this. “Consultations with various partners, staff, students and the community will continue over the next few months and we hope to have plans for the area in place soon. “All staff currently employed by Fife College at the Cupar campus have been advised of the plans and are assisting us in looking at new ways to deliver courses in the area.” Fife College took over some of the courses at Elmwood when it was created last year by a merger between Elmwood, Adam Smith and Carnegie colleges. The majority of the Cupar courses are run by SRUC, which is to remain.
Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space…
An announcement on the future of the former Elmwood College is expected within weeks. The Scottish Rural University College, which took over the running of the Cupar campus less than four years ago, has been locked in talks with FifeCollege chiefs and the Scottish Funding Council to seek a way forward for the beleaguered site. The negotiations follow weeks of speculation that Elmwood’s days could be numbered amid claims the merger with SRUC was botched. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has welcomed the latest development, saying it would hopefully provide some reassurance for staff and students. Mr Rennie had previously called for a merger between Elmwood and Fife College in a bid to secure the future of the north east Fife campus. He had expressed serious concern about rising anger and plummeting morale among Elmwood staff who feared the campus would close. Fife College is already in the process of withdrawing its courses from Cupar. In a statement released to The Courier, SRUC’s acting chief executive Janet Swadling said constructive discussions had been held in an effort to find a solution. “We expect to be able to set out the future plan for SRUC Elmwood within the coming weeks,” she said. “Until these discussions conclude I don’t believe it is helpful for staff, students and potential students to speculate on the outcome.” Ms Swadling added that she was planning a meeting where staff could raise any questions they had. “I understand that this uncertainty is difficult for our Elmwood-based staff and the frustrations which this causes and I too will be pleased when I am in a position to give a more definitiveposition for the future.” Mr Rennie said the fact talks had been held was good news. “It is clear that SRUC are struggling to cope with the Elmwood campus so hopefully negotiations with Fife College management will see the transfer of the site, courses and staff to Fife College,” he said. “I have been concerned about the level of anger amongst staff about the future. “The merger of Elmwood into SRUC was botched and the failure to keep Fife College on site compounded the problems.” An Elmwood staff member, who asked not to be named, said workers had lost confidence, trust and respect for senior management. “Morale is at rock bottom,” they said. A spokesperson for Fife College said they were open to dialogue around how a range of learning opportunities could be sustained in north east Fife.
Two Holyrood candidates have committed to campaigning against any proposed closure of a Fife college. Roderick Campbell, who is standing for the SNP in north-east Fife, and Liberal Democrat candidate Willie Rennie have thrown their weight behind efforts to retain the Scottish Rural University College’s (SRUC) Elmwood campus in Cupar. The pair were responding to a call by local councillor Bryan Poole, who wrote directly to them both expressing concern for Elmwood’s future. His fears follow claims that the Cupar campus is being “managed towards closure”, with significant capital investment needed to keep it open. Talks are ongoing between SRUC, Fife College and the Scottish Funding Council to find a way forward for the site. In the meantime, Fife College still intends to remove its courses from Elmwood by the summer. “All the signs are that Elmwood is being prepared for closure e.g. the farm has already been sold,” said Mr Poole. “My own view is that would be a short-sighted decision and would not be serving the current or future needs of the local community of Cupar, north-east Fife and more importantly the future needs of our young people.” He added: “I know there are fewer students and staff currently at Elmwood than there has ever been.” Mr Campbell, who was elected MSP for north-east Fife in 2011, said he would do everything possible to ensure further education provision was maintained in the town. “There should be no doubt that I do not wish to see further education provision reduced, let alone removed, from the town,” he said. He added that he had been discussing the issue for many months with education secretary Angela Constance, the SRUC, Fife College and Fife Council. Commenting on suggestions that Fife College should take over the day-to-day running of Elmwood, Mr Campbell said: “At this point, I do not believe it is helpful to be discussing a possible closure of the college. This only serves to further speculation about its future and therefore increases speculation and gossip.” Mr Rennie disagreed, however, stating: “I have been concerned about the future of Elmwood for some time and believe the best future can be secured within Fife College rather than as a small part of a remove SRUC arrangement. “I can commit to campaigning against closure and for additional capital spending. “I have committed to a modest increase in income taxation to pay for additional investment in education including the college sector.”
Concern is growing about the future of college education in north east Fife, as student numbers dwindle at SRUC Elmwood. Fife College, which shares the Cupar campus with SRUC, is to withdraw from the town next year and there are worries SRUC, which is already selling Elmwood’s farm, could follow suit. SRUC Elmwood courses in both further and higher education at Elmwood, which include animal, countryside, horticulture and tourism programmes, are less than three-quarters full and assistant principal David James said the student population had declined. Both North East Fife MSP Roderick Campbell and Fife Council’s education spokesman, Councillor Bryan Poole, have called for reassurance on the land-based college’s commitment to the area. Mr James said work is being undertaken to attract more students and a range of options is being explored for course delivery during financially- challenging times. He gave no firm statement of commitment, however, despite insistence from the college in September that Elmwood was a key part of its strategy. Mr Campbell said an assurance of SRUC’s long-term presence in Cupar several months ago had since had caveats of “viability and sustainability” added to it by acting chief executive Janet Swadling. He said: “The provision of further education, particularly rural, land-based education, in north east Fife must be preserved, at all costs.” He raised the issue as a matter of urgency with Education Secretary Angela Constance and suggested proceeds of the farm sale should be invested in the campus. He said: “The rumour and speculation regarding Elmwood campus is not helpful, particularly for the staff and students at the college, some of whom have already raised concerns with me directly.” Cupar councillor Mr Poole said the area’s economy depended on training of young people to work in it. He said: “We have a thriving land-based economy built on golf, tourism, food, farming, etc. If these courses aren’t delivered at Elmwood that would affect not only the students but the whole economy of north east Fife.” Mr James said: “At this point in time we are exploring a range of options. We have six campuses across Scotland and there are probably five of those in need of significant capital investment. “There are different ways of delivering different types of programmes.” For example, he said, work-based training could be offered with assessment within the workplace. He added: “There may be options to deliver training partnerships and there may be an opportunity to do more with Fife Council.”
A merger of Scotland’s four leading land-based colleges, including Elmwood College in Fife, could be completed within a matter of months, The Courier understands. Elmwood College has joined forces with Barony College, Oatridge College and the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) to look at how the increasing demands of the land-based sector could be met by a new institute of further and higher education which combines their strengths and expertise. The Courier has learned that college chiefs were due to meet today to consider revisions to merger proposals already on the table, with a representative from Elmwood expected to draw up a resolution which the college’s board of management can take a vote on before the end of this month. Elmwood bosses had been due to vote on the merger on Monday, but the decision was deferred. If the proposals are eventually rubber-stamped, the new ”super” college would support around 13,500 students, employ nearly 1,200 staff and could have a turnover of around £77 million a year. Elmwood principal Jim Crooks told The Courier that Monday’s meeting had been arranged some time ago as an ”essential element” in the timeline ahead of an estimated merger date of August 1, but confirmed that a decision has been delayed. He said: ”The board were of the view that a final vote on the merger be deferred until late May, pending receipt or resolution of three outstanding issues: an agreed set of articles for the new entity; an agreed scheme of delegation for the new education board within the new entity, and a financial forecast. ”The merger proposal document is now with the Funding Council and the Scottish Government for consideration, but this is a living document that will be refined with some additional detail. ”Meetings are arranged with the cabinet secretary and the Funding Council to ensure the process meets the milestones to achieve a vesting day of August 1 2012.” Continued… ”The period of uncertainty we have faced will be with us for a little longer but the board of management is very appreciative of the patience, hard work and professionalism of the staff in delivering a first-class learning experience for Elmwood’s learners.” A consultation under the banner Going Further was launched in March, giving staff and students across the colleges, local communities, industry partners and other stakeholders the chance to contribute their views on the proposals. That process officially closed on May 7 and received more than 290 responses. The outcome is not yet known but an initial analysis of feedback is understood to have highlighted the desire for colleges to retain their local profile and educational provision. Other feedback has highlighted both questions and concerns surrounding the proposed merger, together with opportunities for new and shared industry partnerships. The news comes after the Education Secretary Michael Russell gave the Scottish Parliament an update on the situation, in response to a question from South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine. ”Significant progress is being made by the colleges in developing their proposals to merge,” Mr Russell said. ”The consultation exercise organised by the colleges closed on May 7 and I intend to give close consideration to all the responses. ”Separately, I have written to a wide range of stakeholders offering a further opportunity to provide comments on the proposed merger directly to me.” The land-based industries are seen as crucial to the Scottish economy thus reinforcing the need for those involved in any possible merger to deliver real benefits to everyone involved in the sector and support the next generation of workers and businesses. The sector contributes nearly 70,000 jobs to the economy and around 20,000 Scottish businesses operate in the land-based and environmental industries.
College lectureres in north-east Fife made a public show of opposition to funding cuts they warned would threaten the future of education in Scotland. Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) gathered on the front lawn of Elmwood College in support of the union’s nationwide day of action against a 10.4% reduction in teaching grants. The Cupar college, which has already announced the closure of a number of departments, faces having to make savings of around £1 million, which it says will impact not only on educational opportunities but put jobs under threat. It is expected another 20 full-time posts will be axed on top of voluntary redundancies already made. EIS representative at Elmwood Gary Anderson said, “As the FE (further education) sector contracts to meet funding challenges, it reduces opportunities for learners at a time when education can help contribute to the Scottish economy and climb out of recession.Job cuts”There will be significant job cuts across the sector, which will undoubtedly impact on opportunities for future generations. Formal consultations have already begun at Elmwood. “While recent voluntary redundancy has resulted in eight posts going, job losses already incurred from the college ceasing provision of access, art, design and multimedia will be increased as the college looks to make savings by cutting up to another 20 full-time posts.” College principal Jim Crooks backed action, saying, “I am deeply saddened that the cuts in the public sector will impact significantly on further education and Elmwood in particular. “The service that is provided by colleges is essential for recovery from recession as well as the future growth of the economy and especially in north-east Fife. “When there is such a large demand for skills and training and such a significant growth in youth unemployment, we believe that additional investment in further education would be the right investment to make at this time. “The board is committed to ensuring the financial sustainability of Elmwood College and working hard to mitigate the effects of funding cuts and it remains committed to maximising the effectiveness of funds available to provide learning and skills.”
Dozens of students and staff joined forces outside a Fife college to protest “devastating” cuts. A consultation process is under way at Elmwood College in Cupar and “a number of posts” are at risk. Organisers of Wednesday’s demonstration warned a 10.4% cut in funding to colleges across Scotland will have a dire impact on not just a generation of students but also the wider community. Karen Dawson, who is chairwoman of the UNISON further education committee and an employee at Elmwood, said, “The message was ‘no funding — no future.’ We wanted to raise awareness of these savage cuts.” Ms Dawson warned of a “bleak future” for colleges throughout the country, with fewer courses, staff losses and reduced educational opportunities. A statement issued by Elmwood College chiefs confirmed that funding cuts had led to the institution experiencing “financial challenges.” “These challenges are being felt by every college in Scotland,” it said. “The cut in investment in further education means that every college is faced with some difficult choices and Elmwood is not immune from these challenges.” Last month the college entered a 90-day consultation period and a number of posts have been identified as being “at risk.” “One of the issues on which the college is currently consulting is how we best use the Elmwood Farm for our long-term future and ensure it is also relevant to the economy of Fife,” the statement continued. “The board has already agreed that the farm is to remain as part of our overall estate and we will be using it to deliver a wide range of land-based courses.” However, it has been decided that Elmwood will withdraw from “organic” status. Continued… “The premiums do not justify continuation,” the statement noted. “We are not closing the farm, but we may be changing what is delivered on the farm. We will still need access to land for conservation, gamekeeping, animal care and equine curricula.” The board hopes to increase the returns Elmwood achieves from the farm. “We have been speaking to some representatives of the local farming industry and we are arranging a future farming focus group to advise the college,” the statement said. “We have been and will continue to explore their training needs in order to find a practical and economical solution for Elmwood and the local economy.” The consultation includes a proposal for the cessation of the full-time agriculture course on the farm. “The course would be transferred to our partner college at Oatridge in Broxburn,” the statement said. “In return we are consulting on the transfer of course provision from Oatridge to Elmwood. “The cessation of greenkeeping courses at Oatridge would strengthen Elmwood’s claims to be the UK’s foremost centre for greenkeeping and golf course management.” But the statement acknowledged the level of anger sparked by the changes. “News of these proposals has created a great deal of concern within our land-based students, who have launched a Facebook campaign and online petition to raise awareness of the threat to the agriculture provision at Elmwood,” it added. College principal Jim Crooks said he “understood the strength of feeling” displayed by those protesting against the changes. “I am very grateful to all those with a real attachment and regard for Elmwood and its past, present and future delivery,” he continued. “I can only reiterate that, along with my senior management colleagues and the board…I only wish to see our college succeed.”
Fife College has been challenged to expand its service in north east Fife, following the news it plans to move from the Elmwood College campus in Cupar. While the Scottish Rural University College (SRUC) is committed to a strong presence at Elmwood, concerns have been raised that would-be college students in north east Fife including many in rural areas will struggle to access the full range of Fife College courses. Liberal Democrat councillor Tim Brett and MSP Willie Rennie want guarantees the area’s young people will not suffer. Mr Brett, who represents the Tay Bridgehead, has written to Hugh Logan, the principal of the college. He said: “I am very anxious about what the proposed withdrawal from Elmwood will mean for Cupar and the wider north east Fife area. “We need clarity from the college as to their intentions. The sudden decision to shut down their presence on the Elmwood campus generated a lot of concern. “It would be unacceptable if courses were to be concentrated in Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, as north east Fife already has a very poor further education offer. That needs to improve.” Mr Rennie said: “If the college is determined to withdraw from the Elmwood campus, leaving the SRUC on the site, we want guarantees the further education offer in the area will expand and not contract. “Towns like Anstruther and St Andrews need a better deal, too. In Cupar courses have been limited to hair and beauty, care and social sciences, and skills for life and work. This needs to expand so more students can get access to the course they want closer to home. “The college principal needs to provide clarity on his intentions and provide a guarantee that the courses available to students in north east Fife will expand.” A college spokesperson said: “We may be moving out of the Cupar campus in June 2016 but we remain committed to ensuring a range of courses and learning opportunities are available in north east Fife. “It is also very much our intention to broaden the range of courses available, offering more choice for people in the area. “All staff currently employed by Fife College at the Cupar campus have been advised of the plans and are assisting us in looking at new ways to deliver courses in the area. We hope to be in a position to share our plans with our partners and the local community in the very near future.”
Sir, – I was disappointed to read (March 11) that Elmwood College in Cupar may be closing. As someone who began his career in horticulture at Elmwood in 1977 as Jim McColl was starting on the Beechgrove Garden, I have fond memories of the college, while Carole Baxter trained there as well. Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) was the first of the Scottish colleges to merge and shut down specialist centres and now they are threatening to shut one of the jewels in the crown so far as land-based training goes. Students are being affected and will have to travel further, while staff could be made redundant. Elmwood is not alone in this respect as thousands of college staff have lost their jobs during recent years, as the Scottish Government has been hell-bent on reducing the number of colleges and student places to save money. I enjoyed a 30-year career in further education, but unless colleges invest adequately, practical subjects will cease to be delivered properly. Little wonder staff are up in arms given the uncertainty of their jobs and worsening conditions, but let’s hope that the suits see sense and ensure that practical subjects are retained and that future Jim McColls and Carole Baxters can be trained at Elmwood and other Scottish colleges offering land-based training. I am also well aware that Elmwood delivers non land-based subjects, but I think these are now part of Fife College. The decision on Elmwood’s future rests with SRUC. Gordon Croll. Ardblair Road, Blairgowrie. Eric strikes chord with refuseniks Sir, – Regarding the letter about Facebook from Eric Travers on Saturday, if there was an award for letter of the week, month or year, then this would get my vote. I thought it hilarious, as did my wife. We read it out several times and each time it got funnier. If you substitute “my children” for the friends that Eric mentions then this letter could have been submitted by myself, although I have managed (so far) not to succumb to opening a Facebook page. Reading this letter I feel vindicated. I will definitely be sharing it with my children, probably with absolutely no effect. Brian M Russell. 8 Boniface Road, Invergowrie. Focus on issue and not style Sir, – I am delighted that Mr Dilworth has taken time to read my letters but saddened that he chose to criticise the style rather than the issues raised (March 19). Ad hominem attacks are no substitute for well-presented criticism and coherent, articulate counter arguments to honestly-held opinions. Reasoned debate is interesting, informative and often entertaining but snide comments are not. I think Mr Dilworth should take note of what Socrates said: “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” Iain G Richmond. Guildy House, Monikie. Ditch St Andrews school proposal Sir, – I have a solution to the new MadrasCollege problem being experienced by Fife Council. Build the new school somewhere else. We taxpayers have contributed enough to the sorry, childish behaviour of the good citizens of St Andrews, or at least a handful of them. Consider Newport, Tayport, Dairsie, or even Cupar to accommodate a projected population rise after the building of the northern Cupar expansion and ring road. Or how about some nice field at the southern end of the Tay Road Bridge, as, I believe was previously suggested by Councillor Tim Brett? Or do we spend more by going to the Supreme Court? Enough is enough. The contractors cannot wait forever. Let us get suggestions before the planners and get on with the job. A T Geddie. 68 Carleton Avenue, Glenrothes. Health crisis facing nation Sir, – All political parties say we are all living longer so we need more immigrants to work to pay for a rising number of OAPs, their pensions and care. It is also a reason for raising the retirement age. Or does the rise in obesity, alcohol consumption and drug abuse mean that, irrespective of better treatments, people will actually die earlier? This was once used by Nicola Sturgeon to justify not raising the retirement age in Scotland. The SNP recently announced a £100 million fund to improve cancer care. I found an NHS Scotland report on cancer incidence and projections to 2020, published in 2010. The incidence of all cancers will increase by 34% from 130,557 in 1998 to 174,898 in 2020. Some cancers will remain fairly static, for example lung and stomach, others will increase more, for example, colorectal by 35%, kidney 58%, and skin cancer, a classic example of a lifestyle-induced illness, by 117%. We should take a lead from the sugar tax, announce a national emergency and by legislation, education and financial inducement, actively prevent these cancers and other conditions that limit lifespan, creating burdens for the NHS and hammering our payslips. Or should just we accept that “wur a’ doomed” and lobby for a lowering of the retirement age? Allan Sutherland. 1 Willow Row, Stonehaven. Find cash to fix pot holes Sir, – The condition of many of Scotland’s roads is a national disgrace, with rough and potted surfaces common. Had this been a harsh winter in terms of severe frost, goodness knows what further deterioration we might have faced. Little seems to be happening to address this and rather there seems to be vast sums of money pouring into pavement reconstruction. Indeed, perfectly serviceable pavements in Glenrothes are being replaced and also in Kinglassie. But we witness the continuing preservation and proliferation of dubiously-effective speed bumps, high on the list of local authority favouritism. You never see a neglected speed bump. Surely in these times of austerity, priority planning should be given to immediately necessary projects such as our roads maintenance. Think of the many pot holes that could be filled by better use of materials, currently used in less-than-necessary pavement renovation. It cannot be beyond the vision of planners to see the logic in this and redirect scarce resources appropriately. The recent experience of a failed Forth Road Bridge component comes to mind. David L Thomson. 24 Laurence Park, Kinglassie. Scotland’s energy reliance Sir, – From time immemorial, at least it feels like that, the SNP dominated government has been telling us that wind turbines were the way ahead and that Scotland would export wind electricity to England which uses dirty coal and gas and also nasty nuclear which will soon be eliminated from Scotland. Well it has not worked out and Scotland is having to import this “nasty” electricity on a regular basis to keep Scotland’s lights on. The media should publish the amount of electricity imported the previous day from England so that the green zealots, after they have spluttered into their muesli, will be able to salvage their ideals by switching off all their electrical appliances until the wind blows. Clark Cross. 138 Springfield Road, Linlithgow. Freedom to freeze to death Sir, – Politics are dominated by gender balance as though it in itself will bring benefit to the country. This extends to policy as well as individuals, and is, of course, responsible for the abandonment of nuclear and fossil electricity, in favour of windmills and the like, in order to provide a politically correct country in which to freeze and starve to death. Malcolm Parkin. 15 Gamekeepers Road, Kinnesswood, Kinross.