By Émer O’Toole, Editor in Chief
Protestors have asked University of the West of Scotland to delay a controversial proposal to move the campus from Hamilton to a motorway business park on the M8.
UWS drew up the plans after £25 million of requested public funding for a £53m refurbishment of the Hamilton campus was rejected by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in December last year.
However, correspondence from the time shows the SFC were strongly in favour of supporting the redevelopment at a future date – even though they could not commit funds immediately.
A letter from Laurence Howells, the chief executive of the SFC, to Professor Craig Mahoney, the principal of UWS, states: “While the council continues to be fully supportive of the university’s ambitions for its students in Lanarkshire we do not, at this point, have capital grant available to commit to this project.
“What I propose, therefore, is that the council will reflect its support in principle for the university’s ambitions for Lanarkshire in its submission of a 10 year plan to the Scottish Government indicating that the council considers the Hamilton campus to be one of its highest priority for capital investment.”
Monica Lennon, Labour councillor for Hamilton, said it was “a dreadful situation for students and staff.”
“I’m relieved the SFC is prepared to fund the Hamilton campus in future, but despite this UWS is threatening to leave and it will decide next month whether to go elsewhere.”
“UWS should be fully utilising all available support to develop a robust business plan and secure long-term funding for its Hamilton rebuild scheme.”
A spokesman for the EIS union said: “It is a matter of concern that despite a clear statement of support from the funding council for the development of the Hamilton site UWS is now considering closing the Hamilton campus and moving out of the town completely.”
“Staff and students at Hamilton have expressed concerns with a possible move to a potentially distant campus on the edge of a Glasgow business park.”
A UWS spokesman said an options appraisal process was currently underway which was evaluating a number of options.
He added: “There is no preferred option at this stage and a detailed options appraisal regarding the Lanarkshire campus will be presented to the university’s governing body, Court, for consideration by the end of the year. Court will determine at that stage how the university will proceed.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The University is very aware of the wider implications that any move from its existing site would have for Hamilton and have assured us that this is very much part of the options work being carried out.”
The UWS proposal to close its Hamilton base and re-open it on a motorway business park is one of three options being considered.
The other options are a smaller redevelopment on the current site or a new building on a technology park on the outskirts of Hamilton.}