Falmouth University temporarily scraps “expensive” design foundation course

The university’s Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, which costs some students only £100 in tuition fees, has been suspended for 2017/2018.

Falmouth University sign, courtesy of Flickr user Tim Green
Falmouth University sign, courtesy of Flickr user Tim Green

Falmouth University is shutting its foundation course in art and design for at least one year, due to it being “expensive to run”.

The Foundation Diploma in Art and Design has been running since the 1960s, and is a year-long, full-time course which aims to “prepare [students] for a future in the creative arts” through lectures, and studio and workshop sessions, reads the course summary.

“Expensive to run” and “taking money from other students’ tuition fees”

The university has decided to suspend the course for the academic year 2017/2018, “in the best interests of the university and our students”, says the university’s director of communications Robert Hillier.

“For some time, the Foundation Diploma, which is expensive to run, has been subsidised by other courses,” he says.

“Further education funding is facing greater reductions over the next five years, and as a result, we anticipate that course will need more subsidies,” he continues. “This means taking money from other students’ tuition fees.”

£100 per year for students aged 19 or younger

The diploma, which is an alternative or precursor to an undergraduate degree, charges students just £100 for the year if they’re under 19 years old when starting the course, or £4,140 if aged over 19. It costs £10,000 for international students.

A three-year undergraduate degree such as BA (Hons) Graphic Design costs £27,000 in total. They cost £45,000 for international students.

The university says a consultation process is currently in place to decide whether the course will be closed permanently or whether it will reopen.

Falmouth University “committed” to art and design

Hillier adds that Falmouth University currently has more students studying art and design courses than any time in the university’s history, and that £2.5 million was invested into the campus which houses the Falmouth School of Art this year. “To question our commitment to art and design simply doesn’t fit the facts,” he says.

Petition set up in protest of closure

Students, designers and others have protested against the closure by signing an online petition to save the foundation course, started by Falmouth graduate Lily M.

She writes: “Education in the arts is becoming increasingly downtrodden.

“A foundation course can be essential to creative students before heading into undergraduate education – it allows a year to…explore practices that may be restricted during an A-Level.”

She goes on to say that the course is cheaper for Cornwall-based creative students who can’t afford to move elsewhere in the country or “jump straight into a degree”.

She also expresses concern around potential staff redundancies which could result from the closure of the course. Falmouth University is yet to confirm whether any redundancies will be made, but says a consultation with staff has begun.

“Cost-cutting exercise” and “a mistake”

Falmouth University graduate Sam Wrigley, who studied BA (Hons) Graphic Design, tells Design Week he thinks scrapping the course is a “cost-cutting exercise” and “a mistake”.

He says: “Undertaking a foundation course before starting a creative degree can be immensely helpful for students who aren’t completely sure what they want to do.”

“A foundation course is designed to give students a broad understanding of design and creativity in general,” he continues. “By removing the option to study it, the university is putting students who may not have built up their portfolio enough to go straight into studying a degree, at a disadvantage.

“Closing the course won’t dramatically alter the creative community in the South West, as it’s incredibly strong. But it is another chip in the wall and there will be a lot of people who are disappointed by the decision.”

The petition has currently received more than 4,000 signatures, and will be sent to the university’s vice chancellor Anne Carlisle and deputy vice chancellor Alan Murray if it reaches 5,000.

Decision on permanent closure to be made in May 2017

The university expects to reach a decision in May 2017 on whether to permanently close the course or reopen it for 2018.

The Change.org petition can be viewed here.

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  • Mark Roberts November 17, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Is anybody surprised that Universities are now mainly just interested in the bottom line. Future looks stark for any non profit making courses.

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