Students’ fight to save journalism course raised in Holyrood

Claire Baker MSP (Pic: George McLuskie)
Claire Baker MSP (Pic: George McLuskie)

Students have launched a bid to save a Fife College course from closure.

Students have launched a bid to save a Fife College course from closure.

The HND practical journalism course at the college’s St Brycedale campus is set to be scrapped.

Fife College says it will continue with the HNC course, but students who signed up expecting to do the two year course say they weren’t told.

They have launched a campaign on social media and also met with college management in a bid to get more information.

They have also raised the issue with Shirley Anne-Somerville, the Kirkcaldy-born Minister for Education in the Scottish Government.

The issue was also raised at Holyrood by Claire Baker MSP who said the decision to cut the course was unacceptable.

The college says plans to end the HND were made known before the start of term – a point disputed by students.

The course is also accredited by the NCTJ, journalism’s national training organisation, and its links to Sunderland University, where some students have gone on to complete their course, are also under review.

The plan is to discontinue the second year of the course and withdraw NCTJ exams for 2018-19 – but that latter point was key to students signing up in order to gain an industry accreditation which many employers insist on when recruiting.

The Press understands lack of numbers is one key factor behind the decision.

A college spokesman said: ‘‘This change has been made due to a reduction of students over recent years progressing on to the second year HND course - many are opting to use the HNC as a stepping stone on to university or employment.

‘‘Students were made aware of this change in June, before the course began.’’

The decision has sparked a backlash.

The NCTJ is investigating the plan to scrap the HND – the Press understand the organisation was not informed.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Scotland is also backing the students’ case.

Dominic Bascombe, Scotland organiser, said: ‘‘The number of colleges offering fully accredited courses is shrinking in Scotland and it is vital that students have the opportunity to study journalism.

“We are calling on Fife College to reconsider its decision.’’

A students’ spokesman added: “We are deeply concerned that the college undertook so little engagement with key stakeholders to inform their decision– at the very least we had expected them to consult with industry about employment opportunity for students.”

Ms Baker raised the closure with the Minister for Higher Education during education questions at Holyrood.

She said: “I understand that Fife College has taken this decision halfway through a course and that is disappointing.

‘‘These students have made an investment in Fife College and they should expect that to be honoured.

“All students who sign up to a course should expect to be able to complete it. For students halfway through to be told that they can no longer sit the exams that enticed many of them to sign up in the first place is unacceptable. ‘‘

She said she was also disappointed that the Scottish Government ‘‘failed to accept that courses should not be cut halfway through’’ adding: ‘‘If this is allowed to happen what confidence can any student have in their course.’’

Ms Baker added: “Fife has a proud tradition of great writers and fine journalists. We should be looking to cultivate this.

“Transferring to Sunderland University is not a realistic option for many of the students based in Fife and closing this course leaves Glasgow as the only place in Scotland to be NCTJ accredited.

“Fife College must ensure that the students currently on their Practical Journalism course are able to complete it to the full HND level.”