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Anger as Moray College UHI 'pauses' art degrees

By Alistair Whitfield

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Emma Justice is one of may art students who have spoken out. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Emma Justice is one of may art students who have spoken out. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Angry art students at Moray College UHI say they'll be left high and dry if the educational faculty cancels their degree course.

Moray College UHI told staff last Wednesday that art degrees might be cut as part of a financial recovery plan

That means students partway through their studies would not receive a qualification, but instead be given 'credits' to help get into another university.

There is also unhappiness being directed at the timing.

The UCAS deadline ended three weeks ago, which leaves students no longer able to apply for a transfer to a university of their own choosing.

Instead, come September, they'll face having to take their chances through the clearing system.

Emma Justice, a fourth-year student, said: "I'm in an incredibly privileged position in that I'll get to finish my honours course this summer.

"But there are lots of students who aren't.

"Being given 'credits' will be absolutely no use to many of them.

"Many have family commitments in Moray which mean they can't just up sticks to go study somewhere elsewhere."

The Moray School of Art is part of Moray College UHI. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
The Moray School of Art is part of Moray College UHI. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Added to the mix are nine other students currently doing diplomas in art at Moray UHI who, only last month, were accepted onto next year's degree course.

One of them is Kay McGregor, a mum-of-one from Hopeman, claims Moray College UHI's handling of the situation has been "unprofessional".

The 38-year-old said: "It's been my dream for the past 20 years to study art. I was just so excited last month when I got accepted onto the degree course for next September.

"It feels as though it's all been thrown back in my face."

Likewise, Rachel Heard from Huntly has been doing a diploma in Elgin for the past 18 months.

Her work was included in London exhibitions last year but, as a mum, her family situation limits where she can study.

She said: "The art department at Moray UHI is known to be better than some in big cities.

"Everybody gets on so well with each other and with the lecturers. We've become like a little family and we're all feeling devastated.

"What's happening just seems so unbelievably short-sighted."

Moray School of Art is a part of Moray College UHI.

It has traditionally been one of Scotland's five major art schools, alongside Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Another student, who's three years into her degree, said she'd moved to Moray specifically because of the art department's reputation.

She said: "We know the college has debts, but this feels like a rushed decision.

"The staff were told last Wednesday.

"That news spread very quickly, but we still haven't been told anything and we can't understand why not."

The Moray School of Art. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
The Moray School of Art. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

Moray College UHI states it will continue to run a diploma course at Moray School of Art, but confirmed that discussions are ongoing regarding the degree.

A spokesperson said: "The curriculum proposal includes adjustments to art provision.

"Following publication of the recovery plan, staff have been informed that the BA (Hons) Fine Art programme will pause recruitment into all years from 2024/25.

"This is not a final decision and discussions will continue throughout the consultation process with the aim of finding a financially sustainable solution for this provision.

"Moray School of Art will remain open, but a final decision on the BA (Hons) Fine Art will be made on conclusion of the consultation process."

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