HULL College bosses are being urged to reconsider hundreds of redundancies and changes to courses, which a former head of art has warned will “decimate higher education”, following the City of Culture year.
The Government has given the college an “eight-figure” sum to allow for a restructure at the college, which had run up a £10m deficit over four years. Up to 231 academic and support full-time equivalent posts at sites in Hull, Harrogate and Goole now face redundancy.
In an open letter Rob Gawthrop, who was head of Hull School of Art and Design when it was part of the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside, said the city “didn’t deserve” the cuts.
He said financial problems were not the fault of staff or students who “should not be sacrificed at the altar of the spread-sheet mentality of previous incompetent managers”.
Fine art, he said, contributed to the city’s culture through graduates setting up galleries, studios and organisations. He added: “Imagination and innovation is required, the expertise exists among your staff, many of whom you propose to make redundant.”
The college is replacing BA honours degree courses with two-year foundation degrees from September, with an option to stay a third year to do a BA, or leave.
But Mr Gawthrop, who went on to become director of art at Dartington College in Devon, said foundation degrees were “in decline” while creative subjects had become marginalised at secondary school, “yet demand at degree level has hardly changed”.
Staff have already complained that courses had been reshaped with no consultation.
Mr Gawthrop said new chief executive Michelle Swithenbank could bring in a more positive policy “grounded in co-operation, of working with staff and students, not against”.
He went on: “To continue with what you propose will produce extremely negative responses and reductions in recruitment leading to the decimation of Higher Education at Hull College.”
In a statement Ms Swithenbank said: “From September we will offer an improved range of courses in both further and higher education, including a number of new foundation degrees.
“All of our courses will continue to blend workplace learning, academic and practical study and ensure our students are in the best possible position to secure future employment.
“Everything we do will be in the best interests of our students and as part of our open, honest and transparent approach, we will be sharing regular updates so everyone can see the progress we are making.
“There is a lot of work to do but we believe we have the right plan in place to achieve a bright future for Hull College Group and our learners.”