About 45 art lecturers and students from the University of South Wales (USW) held a protest against the foundation course’s closure outside the Newport City campus. USW announced last September that its Caerleon campus is to close, with teaching to finish at the site in summer 2016. Five members of staff on the Foundation Art and Design course however were told not to recruit for the forthcoming academic year and that their jobs are to go this summer.
Staff alongside current and former students showed up to voice their support for the one-year foundation course, which is currently based at the soon-to-close Caerleon campus. A petition of more than 600 signatures has been gathered for submission to the USW.
Lecturer in Fine Art, Edward Jeavons said: “The closing of the Foundation Art and Design course is a disgraceful decision. It makes no sense on any level. The course gives the people in Gwent area an opportunity to access Higher Education through experiencing all areas of art and design. This course has been supplying students to the degree courses for 50 years. Where will those students come from now? The university says that students can now do the course by Coleg Gwent at the Crosskeys campus. This is too far for many students from Gwent. The alternatives for students isn’t suitable. ”
Course leader Charles Penwarden, who has taught on the course for nearly 30 years, said: “Non-traditional students, people who want a second chance, use this course as a vital bridge onto higher education.”
A USW spokesman previously said: “Foundation art and design is not a higher education course but a subject which is more commonly undertaken in further education colleges. As part of our strategic portfolio review the university has decided to focus the university’s provision at level four (higher education courses).”
Welsh Assemble Member John Griffiths said: “I have been contacted by several constituents concerned about the future of the foundation art course. I will be continuing to raise their concerns with the university.”
A spokesman for the university said: “The university is aware that a group of people gathered at our Newport city campus to express their opinions about USW’s decision last year to stop teaching the FE course in foundation art and design as part of a stronger focus on higher education courses. Their representatives were invited to present a petition to the vice-chancellor, and did so in an atmosphere of professional respect.”