Crichton University Campus

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:54 pm on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Rosie Kane Rosie Kane SSP 12:54 pm, 22nd March 2007

I thank Alasdair Morgan for securing a debate on Crichton campus and I thank Elaine Murray for doing so on a previous occasion.

Usually towards the end of a debate, most of the important points will have been made, but I will not apologise for repeating some, because the arguments in the fight to save Crichton campus cannot be made often enough.

Over the past few months, much of the discussion has focused on cost, profit and loss. There are conflicting views about who holds the purse and who can save Crichton campus. The University of Glasgow claims that because the campus is making a loss, new students cannot be admitted in September, but the university as a whole has a surplus that is far greater than the current deficit at Crichton, so it could easily step in to save this valuable resource.

Given that Crichton has been up and running for only 10 years, it has not had a decent chance to bed in or to show its true colours in respect of what it can put back into the community. At the moment, the campus is not fully resourced—it lacks a students union, recreational and sports facilities and a canteen. If it were fully resourced, Crichton would be more than capable of balancing its books, so it should be afforded the chance to do just that.

The Executive has bailed out many a big business that has been in strife, but it will not get round the table with the University of Glasgow and the Scottish funding council to take positive steps to save Crichton campus. The university, the funding council and the Executive are blaming each other, but it is within their powers to step in and save the day, either individually or collectively.

The debate is not just about the current balance sheet; it should focus on the social aspects and the future. The fact that Crichton campus has a higher ratio of disabled students than any other higher education institution in Scotland means that it lifts barriers for many people and opens up the world of higher education to folk who would normally be excluded from it. As has been mentioned, we should celebrate that.

Crichton opens its doors to students who have families and jobs and to people who are carers. It offers a unique setting in which students feel supported and, therefore, comfortable and able to complete their education, which is about enhancing lives, expanding minds and empowering people. Crichton is growing the future—we cannot put a price on that, nor can we let the institution dwindle.

Is the minister aware that lecturers from Glasgow were encouraged to settle in the community, put their children in local schools and become part of the wider community? That was a good thing, but what are those workers to do if the campus is allowed to disintegrate? They made important changes when they brought their valuable skills and expertise to the campus in the name of education. What will be the effect on their families and on the local economy?

The Executive was made aware of the threat to the University of Glasgow's presence at Crichton campus in a letter from Muir Russell in June last year, but for some reason it has chosen to sit on its hands. It is now time to take action. I strongly urge the Executive, the University of Glasgow and the funding council collectively to do the principled thing and get their fingers out to find a solution.

Finally, I congratulate the students from Crichton campus who have spoken up, demonstrated and asked difficult questions of the powers that be, and who continue to fight tooth and nail to save their education and the future education of people they do not even know. I ask the powers that be, who are letting go of a unique and valuable resource, to please show the same courage and determination to save Crichton. It is often argued by MSPs that we need to keep Trident to save jobs. I strongly disagree with that argument, but if we apply the same principles, keeping Crichton will cost a lot less and will produce a much more positive outcome. I sincerely hope that the minister will tell us that a solution will be found and that Crichton campus will be saved, resourced and developed.