Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Supercampus plan threatened

Executive Summary

That on the basis of the conditions attached by the Scottish Funding Council to their agreed capital grant support for the relocation of Dumfries and Galloway College to the Crichton University Campus, the proposed withdrawal of Glasgow University from the Crichton University Campus will require the SFC to hold the agreed funding until a revised ‘full business case’ can be presented to them. This revised full business case must demonstrate that even without the presence of Glasgow University on the Crichton University Campus, the project can still deliver ‘clear evidence of efficiencies in space and running costs’.

Without the presence of Glasgow University on the Crichton site, the increase in ‘marginal costs‘ of the relocation project - in particular the critical provision of shared facilities - could prove fatal to the overall viability of the relocation project. However, until a revised ‘full business plan’ which takes into account the absence of Glasgow University has been produced, no firm conclusions can be drawn.

Given that the proposed investment of between £28 and £37 million (depending on sources) in the relocation project is likely to be the largest ever single public investment in Dumfries and Galloway, critical assessment of the following is vital.

In this particular case, I hope my analysis can be proven wrong.

Alistair Livingston

1. Viability of proposed Crichton Learning Resource Centre and other shared services and facilities.

1.1 Details of these proposals can be found at

1.2 Following is taken from the above Report, which was compiled between June and August 2006.
I have highlighted key sections.

In the context of Dumfries & Galloway College’s intended relocation, in 2008, to a site adjacent to the Crichton site – and the accompanying new build - the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is working with the four Crichton partner institutions to develop and deliver a shared learning resource and library facility, and to explore other possibilities for sharing space.

The intention is that this shared facility will be located within the College’s new build project, being accessed by students, staff and the wider community. The Crichton partners have agreed that they will share a fully-integrated learning resource facility incorporating a library, study and learning space and potentially other services and facilities. The nature and extent of sharing, along with the design have yet to be finalised, and the aspirations for the shared facility need to be properly articulated into a realisable vision.

1.3 Since the Report was compiled before Glasgow University announced that it may withdraw from the Crichton Campus, its findings and conclusions were made on the assumption of GU’s continuing and expanding presence on the Campus. If Glasgow University follow through their threat to withdraw from the Crichton Campus then it necessarily follows that a re-assessment must be made to the Learning Resource Centre and other shared facilities aspect of this element of the proposed 'supercampus' project.

1.4 Any such re-assessment will in turn have cost implications. It is possible that without the need to accommodate the academic needs of Glasgow University and its students and staff, a less ambitious and cheaper Learning Resource Centre could be designed and built. But at the same time, the unit costs of providing and maintaining other shared resources (e.g. sports, student services and refectory facilities) would increase.

1.5 Until such a re-assessment of provision is carried out, the full financial implications of the loss of Glasgow University will remain unquantifiable.

2. Involvement of Scottish Funding Council

2.1 As indicated above, the Learning Resource Centre and other shared facilities would be built as part of the project to relocate Dumfries and Galloway College to the Crichton Campus site. This project is to be funded by the Scottish Funding Council. However, as the following extract shows ,
This funding is conditional. Extract taken from here:

06/177 Capital Investment Committee: recommendations (SFC/06/134)
The Council noted the contents of the paper seeking its approval of recommendations from the Capital Investment Committee meeting of 29 September 2006.
The highlighted text in the following paragraph is exempt from disclosure as it could prejudice the commercial interests of the institutions concerned (Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, part 2, section 33).
In its consideration of the Crichton University Campus (CUC) partners full business case, the Council agreed:
capital grant support of up to £[ ] from the selective LTIF funds;
that such funding should be conditional upon the CUC partners providing clear evidence that the project will deliver efficiencies in space and running costs; and
[ ].

2.2 It is clear from the above that the SFC agreed the capital grant support [speculated to be as much as £37 million, but only ‘more than £28 million’ by SFC spokesman in January news reports] on the basis of a ‘full business case’ made whilst Glasgow University were still committed to the Crichton project.

2.3 The agreed capital grant support further depends upon the CUC partners ‘providing clear evidence that the project will deliver efficiencies in space and running costs’. But without the presence and contribution of Glasgow University can such evidence still be shown? The running costs of the proposed shared facilities- the Learning Resource Centre, refectory, sports and student services - will be increased if overall student and staff numbers are reduced. In addition, there will be a loss of ‘efficiency of space’ : the 1727 square metres of expensively refurbished space (the Rutherford/ McCowan Building) currently occupied by Glasgow University. This is the largest single unit on the Crichton site. [see page 26 of Crichton Strategic Development Framework for this and comparative figures]

3. Conclusion

3.1 At between £28 and £37 million, the relocation of Dumfries and Galloway College to the Crichton Campus site is the largest ever single public investment in Dumfries and Galloway. [Fact check - unverified assumption].

3.2 This investment by the Scottish Funding Council [ who in turn are funded by the Scottish Executive] is ‘conditional’. If Glasgow University quit the Crichton Campus then the CUC’s ‘business plan’ for the future growth and development of the Crichton Campus will have to be revised. If, and only if, such a revised business plan can show that the project minus Glasgow University will still deliver ‘efficiencies in space and running costs’ can the conditions imposed by the Scottish Funding Council be met.

3.3 At present [ 7 February 2007] no such revised ‘full business case’ exists nor can exist until Glasgow University make explicit their intentions to their CUC partners. Therefore, the Scottish Funding Council’s conditions for the agreed capital grant support for the relocation of Dumfries and Galloway College to the Crichton site cannot be met. Therefore, the proposed relocation cannot proceed.


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