Two petitions which together have garnered over 15,500 signatures have been presented to Falmouth University by a delegation of students, alumni, staff, and members of the Liberal Democrats and Labour party.
The petitions call on the university to reconsider its decision to close two of its long-standing courses: BA Contemporary Crafts and the Foundation Diploma in Art & Design.
A total if 8,459 signatories have demanded that the university reverses its decision to close the Contemporary Crafts degree, which has just seen its last degree show.
The other petition has gained 7,303 signatories in support of the foundation course, which has had its application process suspended while its future is ‘reviewed’. It is understood that staff are currently in the process of being ‘redeployed’.
Matthew Tyas, campaign organiser and Falmouth PhD graduate, said: “Falmouth University brands itself the ‘number one arts university’, yet its commitment to the arts is in lip service only. Consider its blatant disregard for these courses that are invaluable to the Cornish economy and provide opportunities that will only become more limited to local people.”
Lily M, organiser of the Foundation Diploma petition, agreed that the importance of Falmouth is its location. She said: “For many talented Cornish students, going up-country isn’t a viable financial option. Neither is jumping straight into a degree. Falmouth University offers a top level and competitive course that the South West otherwise lacks.”
Andrew George, former West Cornwall MP (Liberal Democrats) and current general election candidate, attended the hand-in. He said: “The case for keeping these courses isn’t rooted in sentimentality but sound economic sense: the arts and crafts in Cornwall are a significant and still growing economic driver.”
Robert Hillier, director of communications at Falmouth University, said: “The decision to close Contemporary Crafts was taken in 2014 as the increasing costs of delivering the programme made it unsustainable and recruitment trends were declining. It is not a recent decision.”
He added: “Our Foundation course was a further education course so sat outside our higher education portfolio and was being subsidised by other students’ tuition fees. We have worked with our FE partner colleges across Cornwall to ensure access to Falmouth University through Foundation will increase.
“There are more students studying on art and design courses at Falmouth than at any time in our 114-year history and this has been matched with record levels of investment in teaching and facilities.”
He described the Contemporary Crafts BA as a “gem of a course… developed over 20 years, from a BA in Ceramics into a course that brings together a range of disciplines, enabling students to work hands-on with metal, wood, plastics, clay and glass.”
1. Andrew George and Debbie Sayers present the petitions with staff, students, alumni, ex-colleagues and supporters