Politicians pile on pressure as fears grow for Elmwood College

Councillor Poole outside the college.
Councillor Poole outside the college.

Pressure is mounting on bosses at Elmwood campus to end the uncertainty over its future amid claims that morale is at ‘rock bottom.’

Falling student numbers and the impending departure of Fife College from the Cupar site has led to speculation that Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) could pull out too.

SRUC has shared the campus with Fife College since 2013 in what has been described by local Independent councillor Bryan Poole as an ‘ill thought-out compromise.’

Councillor Poole, who is Fife Council’s education spokesman, said that Elmwood has found itself ‘between a rock and hard place’, trying to serve two different masters.

And now that Fife College has confirmed it will vacate the campus this summer, Councillor Poole says that it is too big for SRUC and needs significant investment to make it fit for purpose.

The fact that the SRUC’s farm at Elmwood has already been sold Councillor Poole believes suggests that the campus is being prepared for closure, and he describes as ‘heartbreaking’ the presence of banners encouraging potential students to enrol despite the dwindling numbers of students and staff.

Councillor Poole has now written to MSPs Willie Rennie and Roderick Campbell asking them to commit to campaigning against any closure of Elmwood campus resulting from any more cuts to the further education budget in north east Fife.

Meanwhile Willie Rennie has in turn written to the SRUC’s acting chief executive and principal Janet Swadling and Fife College principal Hugh Logan urging them to begin negotiations with a view to transferring responsibility for Elmwood to Fife College.

“It is clear that SRUC is struggling to cope with the Elmwood campus so should begin negotiations with Fife College management to transfer the site, courses and staff to Fife College. It is the best way of returning the campus to its best,” said Mr Rennie.

“I have been concerned about the level of anger amongst staff about the future. The campus has an excellent reputation for providing good quality education and training with people travelling from all over Scotland to be educated in Cupar. The golf management courses were promoted across the world and are still excellent.

“The merger of Elmwood into SRUC was botched and the failure to keep Fife College on site compounded the problems.”

In response, Ms Swadling told Mr Rennie that “useful discussions” were taking place between SRUC, Fife College and the Scottish Funding Council and a further meeting would be held after the Easter holidays.

She described SRUC Elmwood as “very important” to the area and although she believed speculation on its future was not helpful, she believed the outcome would be positive.

Ms Swadling is also due to meet Elmwood staff this Wednesday, March 23.