Elmwood College: plea to save animal care unit under threat in campus cuts

A plea has been made to bosses to commit to saving Elmwood College’s animal care unit under threat in a campus shake-up - and to local businesses and organisations to offer help.
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The plea to the SRUC’s management team came from Willie Rennie MSP for North-East Fife after a visit to the Cupar campus on Monday where he met with staff and students. The Scotland’s Rural College’s principal and chief operating officer also joined him.

His visit came after news of major cuts at Elmwood where the financial position of the long-established campus was described as “non-sustainable” as the SRUC quits its building at the end of term. Horticulture will be left with minimal facilities, while professional golf courses will be phased out and replaced with a new area of sustainable golf development.

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The college was described as a “highly expensive infrastructure that is not fit for purpose” and its student numbers, while stable, have not grown and are well below the capacity of the buildings. It said an important feature of its plans for Elmwood is the introduction of a new academic model that will include new courses starting from September as it shifts to more work-based courses and distance learning.

The SRUC is scaling back and making changes to its operations at Elmwood College  (Pic: Submitted)The SRUC is scaling back and making changes to its operations at Elmwood College  (Pic: Submitted)
The SRUC is scaling back and making changes to its operations at Elmwood College (Pic: Submitted)

Mr Rennie said: “It was important to meet with students, staff and the unions after what was a stressful and confusing week for them. For months the academic staff have been working on a new academic model, which could potentially mean a positive future for Elmwood.

“However, last week the SRUC leadership announced that its animal care courses was not viable. This sparked immediate anger from students and parents. I relayed that anger to the principal, only to be told that they were exploring how to keep the unit after all.

“The outcry shows how important the animal care courses are to North East Fife. The SRUC management should fully commit to saving the animal care unit. They need to provide the funding and the time to allow a sustainable model to be put in place.”

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Animal care would be the biggest loss if the changes go ahead.

The SRUC said “it has not been possible” to find a delivery model fore the course, and hopes of keeping the existing facility as it left the rest of the building were “not viable” - neither was the costs of a new build or refurbishment.

Animal care/vet nursing also represents a disproportionate percentage of the total SRUC educational provision at 30% and this - together with a Scottish Funding Council reduction in funded credits for further education provision - led to “the regrettable conclusion that we will no longer deliver animal care from this site unless a radically different delivery method is developed.”

Student support services are also under the microscope. There will be no fully serviced canteen or library. Facilities needed for learning resources, catering and cleaning will be investigated but it is anticipated that it will not be of an equivalent size to the current model as it moves away from on-site education.Staff associated with cross-SRUC functions who are based in Elmwood but do not need to work within the campus could also be looking at remote working or alternative arrangements.

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The new model is expected to be finalised by the end of next month with individual consultations with staff affected pencilled in for April.

A college statement said: “To ensure that Elmwood is financially sustainable and continues to thrive as an integral part of SRUC into the future, we need to reduce the physical footprint of the campus. Regrettably, this means that we will exit the main building at the end of this term and will utilise Elmwood House and our horticultural facilities to deliver our courses going forward.

“There will be implications for the way animal care courses are delivered. We are working with staff to develop a new and different – and financially viable – delivery model for animal care. We want to ensure the core delivery of this subject continues at Elmwood.”