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Column: Education, education, education – UHI Moray crisis is real concern

By Sandy Keith

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Education, education, education is the well-known mantra of the last Labour Government.

UHI Moray is set to drop art courses, taught at the Moray School of Art, from their curriculum. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
UHI Moray is set to drop art courses, taught at the Moray School of Art, from their curriculum. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Education has a value for itself but is equally key in transforming the lives of many. Society must always value education.

My father was a life long railwayman but drummed it into his three sons the importance of receiving a good education to open up horizons

often denied to ordinary families. I have tried to imbue that same message to my own sons.

The greatest honour I have had as a Councillor was to be Chairman of the Education Committee for 4 years. Record investment went into our

schools and free nursery education amongst other developments took place. Children were rightly being given the best start in life.

So, it has been with anger that I have followed the situation at UHI Moray. Recently, Councillor John Divers and myself met with trade union representatives to hear first-hand what is happening.

The Beechtree training restaurant faces closure. In an area which relies to a significant degree upon the hospitality and tourism sector this will hit hard. A friend of my son’s trained as a chef there. Due to the good training he received, and his own dedication, he is now the Head Chef at a local prestigious restaurant – we need more success stories like his.

Also, on the agenda are cuts to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) provision which will affect senior school pupils who study at UHI Moray in addition to attending their school. This is all the more incredible given that the Scottish Government wants to improve participation in such subjects to the benefit of the economy!

What is going on and how will this impact upon our senior school students?

It was also announced recently that those studying art will no longer be able to finish their studies at UHI Moray. I understand many students have various commitments which preclude moving away and, again, this loss will be keenly felt. There will be cuts to childcare also at a time when we need more of it.

I also understand that at least 25 lecturer posts and 20 support staff are to be cut as part of a plan to balance the books. This is around 20-25% of the total staff – outrageous when staff are any organisation’s top resource.

So, there you have it. Staff cut, courses cut, local economy undermined – it is not a great advert for UHI Moray or education in general.

The Scottish Government recently announced a further £100m cut in its tertiary education budget. I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Jenny Gilruth MSP, and Pam Duncan Glancy MSP, Labour’s Shadow Education Minister, as well as the UHI Moray Board of Management – so far, I have only heard back from Mrs Glancy who has raised the matter in Parliament.

From the foregoing you can probably tell I am passionate about how education can transform lives. UHI Moray has been around for a long time. Many people have very positive stories from their time there and what they have gone onto achieve. It will be a pity if we have a hollowed-out institution going forward or even worse if it were to close. We must not let it happen.

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