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, June 29, 2011

The Gaelic clans of Galloway

Just uploaded ongoing research to Academia - on the Gaelic clans of Galloway.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dumfries Campus Finance questions John Swinney

Crichton Campus (Jobs and Economic Benefits) 16 June 2011

Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP): 

6. To ask the Scottish Government how many jobs have been created in Dumfries and Galloway and what other economic benefits have arisen as a result of the University of Glasgow’s Crichton campus since 2007. (S4O-00037)

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth (John Swinney): The only available study that addresses Ms McAlpine’s question is a local government-funded study that found that the impact of the universities brought in £10 million per year and supported more than 450 jobs across Dumfries and Galloway. There are obviously additional benefits brought by other campus partners, such as Dumfries and Galloway College and the Crichton Carbon Centre. To realise those benefits, we are currently providing £1.5 million to ensure a vibrant and sustainable long-term future for the campus.

Joan McAlpine: Does the cabinet secretary agree that the threat to the liberal arts subjects at the Crichton is of great concern, given the economic contribution of the campus to the area—which he has described—and given the importance of the creative industries in particular to the economy of Dumfries and Galloway?

John Swinney: The university is currently consulting on the future of the liberal arts. I understand that the court of the University of Glasgow will meet on 22 June to consider proposals. At this stage, no final decisions have been made.

I made it clear in my earlier answer that the work of the Crichton campus has been enormously significant in encouraging economic regeneration in the south-west of Scotland. It provides a broadly based educational opportunity for a range of citizens in the area. To ensure that that can continue, broad propositions must be made to those people on how they can pursue their academic interests.

I am sure that the University of Glasgow will be aware of Joan McAlpine’s strong views on this issue. I am sure that it would be willing to engage with the member.

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): I will take a supplementary question from Mr Fergusson, if he keeps it brief.

Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con): Of course I will, Presiding Officer. I would not dream of doing anything else, as you well know.

I hesitate to correct the cabinet secretary, but the consultation has been completed. Next Wednesday, I understand that the court of the University of Glasgow will take a decision on whether to close down the Liberal Democrats—[Laughter.]

That was a Freudian slip and wishful thinking, Presiding Officer.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the decision to phase out the liberal arts degree courses, if taken, can only have an adverse effect on the local economy, given the recent growth in arts-related economic activity in the region? Will he urge the court to postpone the decision until a proper, genuine and open consultation has taken place? To date, that has not happened.

John Swinney: I am tempted to say to Mr Fergusson that he was right the first time, but I do not want to offend my Liberal Democrat friends.

As I said to Joan McAlpine, the University of Glasgow is consulting on this issue. It meets on 22 June to consider its position; it has not yet taken any final decisions.

The importance of the Crichton campus cannot be overstated. In the south-west of Scotland, it offers opportunities for economic benefit and educational attainment. There is proven evidence that accessibility to institutions such as the Crichton campus can change people’s decisions on whether they should study locally or should travel elsewhere. I hope that the university will listen carefully to the representations that have been made. As I have said, it will be important to have a broad educational proposition available at the Crichton campus.

Glasgow University Dumfries Scottish Parliament Debate 16 June 2011

Scottish Parliament Education Debate 16 June 2011

Time: 10.07 to 10. 13
Aileen McLeod (South Scotland)
(SNP): I welcome the opportunity to participate in this morning’s debate. The future of our higher education institutions is of considerable importance to my constituents throughout the south of Scotland. One of our flagship higher education institutions in the south-west is the Crichton campus in Dumfries. I wish to use the debate as an opportunity to highlight the very special significance of the Crichton campus for the future prosperity of the entire region.

In 2007, the newly elected SNP Government fulfilled its pledge to save the Crichton by providing additional funding. Since then, and with the support of the SNP Government, the Crichton has evolved as a dynamic and innovative model of academic collaboration, which has been to the benefit of its students and the economy of the south-west of Scotland as a whole. I congratulate everyone involved in making the Crichton campus a success. The further development of the Crichton campus should be a priority not only for the academic partners involved but for all those who, like me, want the wider regional economy of the south-west to grow and prosper.

It is incontrovertibly the case, I believe, that the presence of higher education and university facilities such as the Crichton can and does play a decisive role in raising the rate of economic growth and improving economic opportunities across an entire region. As the principal higher education cluster in the south of Scotland, the Crichton campus is a crucial resource for equipping the young people of the area with the skills that they need to find employment. The overall regional contribution that is made by the Crichton campus extends well beyond its immediate role as an educator. Equally significant is the contribution that it makes across the south as an emerging centre of excellence for research and innovation activities. It is widely recognised that virtually all successful regional economies have at their centre a cluster of knowledge-intensive activities based around and driven by successful higher educational institutions.

I want the Crichton campus to continue to develop as the regional knowledge-intensive cluster in the south of Scotland, and to act as a magnet attracting more inward investment to the region. The Crichton academic partnership is well placed to realise that potential, given the right vision and commitment.

The landscape of research funding for our universities is changing. There is a growing awareness that basic research needs to be augmented by actions that improve the dissemination of research results across industry and encourage firms, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises, to innovate in new technologies—and to enhance their competitiveness by so doing.

Nowhere is that trend more apparent than in the EU research funding that is targeted at the university sector. I fully expect the next EU research framework programme, FP8, to assign substantial funding to actions that target later stages in the innovation chain than the fundamental science-based research for which many of our older universities have global reputations. It is in that broad area of research and innovation activity that the Crichton has considerable potential to contribute to the local and regional economies of the south of Scotland.

I congratulate the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning on the considerable work that he has done to ensure that Scotland’s interests in the development of the EU eighth framework programme are being fully represented to the European Commission very early in the Brussels policy process.

I encourage all the partners at the Crichton campus, along with the local authorities, Scottish Enterprise, the Federation of Small Businesses and the wider SME population, to develop a range of activities focused on the dissemination of research and innovation in partnership with local firms, and not only in the subject areas that are already represented on the campus; they should also develop new subject specialisms and new partnerships, which will be of benefit to the entire economy of the south of Scotland. I will be only too pleased to support those partners in that endeavour, and I urge them to consider EU research and development programmes as a possible source of funding.

The University of Glasgow is currently reviewing the continued provision of the liberal arts degree in particular, and the related provision of liberal arts courses in general, at the Crichton campus. Axing the successful liberal arts degree programme could significantly reduce the educational choices that are available to students wishing to attend the Crichton at a time when demand is rising. It could also remove one of the few degree programmes in Scotland that is truly interdisciplinary in approach and content and which, as a result, provides students with a range of transferable skills that they can take to the labour market.

I have already written to the cabinet secretary setting out the concerns of my constituents, and I copied the letter to Professor Muscatelli. I hope that the university court will take those concerns on board when it meets on 22 June.

Michael Russell: I can give some reassurance to the member. I spoke to Professor Muscatelli only yesterday about the issue. Professor Muscatelli has indicated that there will continue to be access to liberal arts provision at the Crichton, although in a different way; he is very much focused on ensuring that that provision continues, and that the Crichton grows and flourishes in the way that the member indicates.

Aileen McLeod: I thank the cabinet secretary for his assurances—the Crichton should provide for liberal arts courses, particularly at postgraduate research level.

Universities are central to national and local economic development. The Crichton is central to boosting the growth, improving the employment opportunities, and increasing the resilience of the economy of the south-west of Scotland. Since 2007, the SNP Government has demonstrated its support for the Crichton.

I have a positive vision for the Crichton and I pledge my support to the staff, students and each of the institutions that are represented on the campus as they develop their strategies and seek out new sources of funding that will assist them in developing the research and innovation programmes that will contribute to the growth of the campus itself and contribute considerably to the wider economy of the south of Scotland.

Time : 10.25 -10.31
Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries)
(Con): I am delighted to take part in today’s debate because there is no doubt in my mind that this policy area is the most important of all the policy areas that Parliament has been discussing since the election. Without an education system that is properly suited to the needs of our people and our country, other policies areas are, frankly, of little consequence. Education is the foundation stone of our society, and we Scots are justifiably proud of our tradition in that area.

However, it is also an area that faces many great and important challenges, particularly in today’s difficult times, as many speakers this morning have noted. I want to focus on one particular challenge, in which I have a considerable constituency interest as the member for Galloway and West Dumfries: the proposal by the University of Glasgow—which seems to be getting a bit of a rough time this morning—to terminate the teaching of liberal arts courses at the Crichton campus in Dumfries, whose potential was ably highlighted by Aileen McLeod earlier. I agreed with every word of her excellent speech.

The proposal to terminate liberal arts courses will be considered by the court of the university next Wednesday, and there is every indication that it will be accepted. If it is, that will be a decision that the university will come to regret, because it is widely accepted that liberal arts provide the central ethos of that unique university campus. I suspect that Professor Muscatelli’s remarks to the minister reflect the fact that Glasgow university maintains that the ethos of liberal arts will remain, through the interdisciplinary nature of other courses. However, I cannot help but agree with the staff and students when they point out that the physical absence of liberal arts students will, in itself, hugely affect the atmosphere and ethos of the campus.

The staff’s hastily constructed—I will deal with the reason for that haste shortly—response to the consultation says that, no matter what courses remain, the effect of removing the liberal arts students will be that

“the student experience will likely be very different and quite probably diminished.”

When that point was raised at a consultation meeting, the chair of the panel acknowledged that that was a risk that would have to be taken. That is quite an admission, because it suggests that the risk of the Crichton campus losing its distinctive liberal arts ethos is somehow worth taking, even though many who are far better qualified than I am fear that losing that distinctiveness could cost the campus its future. 

An e-mail from Professor Muscatelli, sent on 8 June, states:

“the consultation is about how we ensure that our academic offerings in Dumfries meet the needs of the local community.”

That suggests that the liberal arts courses are perceived as not meeting those needs. However, as one who has, like the cabinet secretary, applauded the growth and success of initiatives such as the spring fling—the Dumfries and Galloway arts festival—over the past decade, I could not disagree more strongly. Indeed, I contend that those courses play to the strengths of Dumfries and Galloway in terms of what the area has to offer today. I believe that it would be dreadfully short-sighted to phase those courses out. 

Michael Russell: I agree with a great deal of the member’s speech, but I want to make two quick points. First, he and I have worked hard to support the Crichton campus. I did so in a previous incarnation in this Parliament and I continue to be committed to the campus and believe that the liberal arts element is important to it. Secondly, I am not an emissary for the principal of the University of Glasgow, but I believe his assurance that liberal arts courses will continue to be offered, and that there is no threat to the university’s presence. Those are important reassurances.

Alex Fergusson: I share the cabinet secretary’s delight in those reassurances, but I am still concerned about the moves that might be made with regard to liberal arts courses.

The cabinet secretary might recall that in 2007 the Crichton Development Company commissioned a report from Cogent Strategies International in response to the University of Glasgow’s plan to withdraw undergraduate courses from the campus. That report stated:

“By far the greatest economic impact of the Crichton campus will be achieved”

by increasing

“the number of young people recruited to courses and graduating, which entails broadening, deepening and lengthening the educational offering.”

I contend that, without the liberal arts courses, the educational offering will be the polar opposite of broader, deeper and longer and has every chance of being narrower, shallower and shorter. That can have only a hugely negative impact on a region that already has the highest outmigration of 16 to 20-year-olds on mainland Scotland.

I do not believe that it is the role of Government to dictate what universities offer. However, I believe that Government has a role to play in ensuring that decisions of such severity and impact are arrived at only following lengthy and meaningful consultation. There is, however, every indication that this particular consultation was anything but lengthy and meaningful and that it has, in fact, allowed too little time for considered reflection. Staff received the report on 4 May, giving them only 14 days to prepare and submit a considered response to a proposal that cast doubt on some of their futures.

Further, the university has made great play of the fact that MSPs and MPs were invited to take part in the consultation. I am sorry, but I did not notice my invitation. That is, perhaps, excusable given that—as I discovered just yesterday—my invitation was issued on the first Wednesday of the short campaign for last month’s elections when, I believe, I was not even recognised as being an MSP. That cannot be right, and I do not believe that the university thinks that it is right. There are myriad reasons for calling into question the consultation process but—sadly for me, but perhaps fortunately for other members—time does not allow me to list them all. However, one thing seems to be certain: this was a consultation that definitely had a predetermined outcome. I believe that that casts doubt on the university’s long-term commitment, but I accept the cabinet secretary’s words in that regard.

I hope that the Government can reassure me that representations have been made, and I urge the cabinet secretary to suggest as strongly as possible that the decision be postponed by the university court until a genuinely full and open consultation has been held.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Deeply flawed consultation

Letter to Herald 14 June 2011

Dear Sir,
What impact would the loss of Liberal Arts courses at Glasgow University’s Dumfries campus have on the ‘national and regional community’? The university’s Consultation Panel considered this question earlier this year and concluded that the impact on the regional community would be minimal. Presumably the Panel concluded there would be no impact on the national community, since this part of the question was left unanswered.

In reaching this conclusion, the Panel must have overlooked a 2007 study on the regional and national importance of the Dumfries campus titled ‘Crichton’s Role - Boosting capacity, community and economic activity in south west Scotland’. The key finding of this detailed and comprehensive study was that:

‘By far the greatest economic impact of the Crichton campus will be achieved through the universities’ effect on the size and age structure of the regional population – by persuading younger people to stay in or to move to Dumfries and Galloway. To achieve this [the university] must continue to increase the number of young people recruited to courses and graduating, which entails broadening, deepening and lengthening the educational offering.’

This finding was based on analysis of the region’s demographic ‘Age Bomb’. As I explained in the Herald at the time (1 November 2007), ‘each year Dumfries and Galloway loses hundreds of young people beginning their working lives and gains hundreds of older people ending their working lives. The problem is that as the working-age population declines, so the ability to keep the regional economy going also declines. This is the Age Bomb that must be defused if the £700m gap between wealth created and wealth consumed in Dumfries and Galloway is to decrease in size.’

Without its popular Liberal Arts courses, student numbers at Glasgow University’s Dumfries campus will decline. As a consequence, as the 2007 study explains in minute detail, there will be fewer well educated young people staying in (or attracted to) the region. This will have a cumulative impact on the demographic structure of Dumfries and Galloway and will, since the regional economy is already less than self-sufficient, increasingly require the ’national community’ to subsidise the region through explicit methods (like government deficits and grants) or implicit ones (like pension transfers).

It is possible that, had the Glasgow University’s Consultation Panel considered the 2007 Dumfries campus study, they would have been able to refute its findings. But they did not, and so will present a deeply flawed report to the University Court on 22 June.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dumfries College of the Humanities

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Humanities Dumfries Courier 2007

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Dumfries humanities campaign in D G Standard

Students seek councillor help for course campaign
Jun 8 2011 by Craig Robertson, Dumfries Standard Wednesday

COUNCILLORS are being urged to step into the row surrounding the scrapping of a university course.
Student campaigners have written to every elected member in the region seeking help in their fight to save the liberal arts course at Glasgow University’s Dumfries campus.
The university’s ruling committee will be advised to scrap the course when they meet on June 22, due to its small uptake. Proposals are in place to replace it with courses in primary education and the environment.

These are seen as more practical than the liberal arts course, which teaches philosophy, literature, history and humanities.

But a student campaign believes it would be a “short sighted” decision.
In a letter to councillors, many of whom backed a Standard-led campaign to save the Dumfries campus when it almost closed in 2007, the student action group state: “While we welcome the setting up of new courses such as the MA in primary education and the MA in environmental stewardship, and understand that teaching cannot stand still, it is difficult to understand how the growth of courses will be successful if the liberal arts MA, which incorporates humanities – courses that have been central to Glasgow University since its foundation in 1451 – and which is certainly essential to the success of the Crichton, is to be reduced to playing a minor role.
“The entire basis of the proposal is also flawed, since it has been stated by management that it is based on the failure of the Liberal Arts to recruit sufficient numbers of students, when actually this course is recruiting very good numbers of students.

“The university has confirmed in writing that this move is not based on financial projections, only on apparently low numbers of first choice applicants, which does not fit with the new strategy of the university.

“However, all but one of the other courses at Dumfries currently have to accept applicants whose first choice was not Dumfries, and the liberal arts course just happens to be the most successful at recruiting through clearing.

“To expect a rural campus to attract the same level of applicants as a large city-based one seems to be massively short-sighted, and to withdraw any course which falls under this category without allowing time to implement promotional strategies which could ease this situation is to doom the campus to failure.”

Current students would be allowed to finish should the cut go ahead.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

D and G Standard Dumfries College of the Humanities.

Dear Sir,
Richard Dawkins and a group of leading academics created a storm of controversy this week. They plan is to set up a New College of the Humanities in London. Professor AC Grayling, the philosopher who will be the college's first Master, has secured millions of pounds of funding from investors to set up the institution. He said: "Our priorities at the college will be excellent teaching quality, excellent ratios of teachers to students, and a strongly supportive and responsive learning environment. Our students will be challenged to develop as skilled, informed and reflective thinkers, and will receive an education to match that aspiration."

What has created the controversy is that students will be charged £18 000 per year to attend the new college. This has led to accusations of ’elitism’.

In contrast to the extensive media coverage given to the New College of the Humanities, the threatened closure of our ‘college of the humanities’ has created scarcely a ripple of national concern. Since it was established in 1999, Glasgow University’s Dumfries campus has specialised in the humanities -the Liberal Arts of philosophy, history and literature. Myself and hundreds of other students have benefited from a higher education no less stimulating and challenging that that described by Professor Grayling.

Responding to the controversy generated by the New College of the Humanities, the Scottish Government have said that access to education should be based on “the ability to learn rather than the ability to pay”. If so, then rather than allow its loss, the Scottish Government, Dumfries and Galloway Council and other stakeholders should insist that Glasgow University develop and expand their Dumfries campus as an affordable and accessible alternative to London’s New College of the Humanities.

Alistair Livingston

New Humanties College for Dumfries?

Letter to Scotsman.

Dear Sir,
I read the report (Scotsman, 6 July) on the New College of the Humanities planned for London with a rather jaundiced eye. Scotland has had a ‘College of the Humanities’ since 1999, when Glasgow University’s Dumfries campus was opened. With its emphasis on the Liberal Arts, students at the Dumfries campus have, in Professor Grayling‘s words, been “challenged to develop as skilled, in formed and reflective thinkers” and have received an education to match those aspirations.

In January 2007, the Dumfries campus was threatened with closure. Thanks to a strong community campaign and additional funding provided by the new SNP government, the threat was lifted in August 2007. This year the threat has returned. It seems likely that on 22 June the Court of Glasgow University will decide to end Liberal Arts courses (Philosophy, History and Literature) in Dumfries.

Responding to the challenge posed by the £18 000 a year New College of the Humanities, the Scottish Government state that access to education should be based on “the ability to learn rather than the ability to pay”. If so, then rather than permit the closure of the
“ college of the humanities“ in Dumfries, the Scottish Government should insist on its development and expansion as an accessible alternative.

Alistair Livingston

Letter to Herald

Dear Sir,
I have just been looking through the Herald archives from 2007 for reports on the struggle to save Glasgow University’s Dumfries campus. As a (post-graduate) participant, I vividly recall how initial despair in January was transformed into celebration in August when the threat of closure was lifted. But, as I noted in a letter published 22 August 2007, ‘the fight goes on’. My concern was that although the new SNP government had found £1.5 million to lift the immediate threat of closure, in the longer term the threat would remain.

Four years on, the threat has returned. On 22 June, the Court of Glasgow University seem likely to nod through the closure of Philosophy, History and Literature (Liberal Arts) courses at Dumfries. They will be replaced by courses on Environmental Studies. Yet, since it was established in 1999, the main focus of Glasgow University’s Dumfries campus has been on the Liberal Arts. To shift the focus away from the Liberal Arts is likely to reduce student numbers, making the Dumfries campus unsustainable.

Surveying his ‘modern age’ from Craigenputtock farm in Dumfriesshire in 1829, Thomas Carlyle described it as the Mechanical Age, the age of steam power and the industrial revolution. Our age is the Information Age, an age in which we are deluged with ‘information’, as instantly available in the most remote rural location as in the heart of the largest city. In this age of information, the ability to critically assess and analyse the value of information sources and transform them into useful knowledge is an absolutely vital and practical skill

Liberal Arts students gain access to the power of such critical knowledge through being
“ challenged to develop as skilled, informed and reflective thinkers”. Or so Professor AC Grayling claims. Unlike Glasgow University, a group of eminent academics including Professor Grayling (Herald, 6 June) are convinced of the importance of the Liberal Arts and plan to establish a New College of the Humanities in London. However, it is unlikely that many students from Dumfries and Galloway will be able to afford the £18 000 fees the New College of the Humanities will charge.

Alistair Livingston

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Glasgow University threat to Humanities in Dumfries

BBC Dumfries/ South Scotland also have a report.

1 June 2011 Last updated at 10:05
Dumfries University of Glasgow degree battle stepped up
Members of a student action group are stepping up their campaign to save the Liberal Arts degree at the University of Glasgow Crichton Campus in Dumfries.
The humanities course could be axed later this month in favour of environmental management studies.
Student representatives claimed the loss of the Liberal Arts degree would be a blow to Dumfries and Galloway.
However, the university said it was "carefully matching courses to local needs and national trends".
The move to cut the Liberal Arts degree is part of wider cost-reduction plans.
A final decision will be made by the university's court later this month.
Katy Ewing, a mature student on the Dumfries campus, said the course had been a vital educational lifeline for her.
"For me personally, I have a family, I am a mature student - I could not have gone away and studied at degree level anyway," she said.
"This was an amazing opportunity for me to study.
"It has changed my life, it has been really important to me personally."
She said one of the best parts of the degree was its flexibility.
"The humanities subjects are so core and the Liberal Arts degree is so transferable it's not like doing a vocational degree where you are locked into your path," she said.
"You are very employable after doing this degree."
Students have voiced concerns that lecturers could be lost and that people would have to leave the region if they wanted to pursue studies in the discipline.
More than 600 people have already signed a petition by the action group to save the Liberal Arts degree course.
A decision on its fate will be made at a meeting in three weeks' time.
A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: "Following an exhaustive and extensive consultation with all stakeholders, the university court will consider the recommendations in the report of the Liberal Arts consultation panel at its meeting on 22 June.
"The proposed changes at Dumfries Campus are in response to changing patterns of recruitment and the importance of carefully matching courses to local needs and national trends."