Yesterday, College announced plans to restructure the Faculty of Life Sciences, beginning with changes at Wye. The statement from College outlines plans to stop Agricultural academic activity, but to continue the College's only undergraduate business management degree, which is taught at the Wye Campus.
The proposals are likely to come as a shock to staff and students alike, with Wye Provost, Professor Jeff Waage, saying that "The Department of Agricultural Sciences, created at Wye in 2001, has done extremely well in its three years of existence."
Indeed, the plans would seem at odds with other statements from College this year, such as those in response to the Rector's comments in a Civil Engineering lecture as reported by Live!, when Dr Christopher Towler, Director of Strategy Development & Communications, told "Live!" that, "reassurance has been received from College officials that they are committed to continuing the process of strengthening and integrating the academic activities of the Wye campus," adding that "conjecture about the future of Wye... are completely without any justification."
Indeed, in his Face-to-Face with Wye staff and students in April this year the Rector himself said that "A place like Wye needs Undergraduates," and praised the Agricultural Sciences research as proving "A very good example" of "inderdisciplinary work... being used to tackle real issues."
At particular odds with the plans was the Rector's response to comments that student numbers had increased more rapidly in Business than Science subjects, to which the Rector responded that "our drive should always be quality" rather than a drive purely to increase numbers such that it would "detract from the student experience;" finally adding that "Wye alone was unsustainable... but the future here is to integrate." Precisely how these latest plans represent the integration of Wye rather than simply a transfer of resources to other campuses is, as yet, unclear.
The reasons for the change appear, perhaps unsurprisingly, to be financial. Initially, the figure given of losses by the Department of Agricultural Sciences of £1.8 million per year would seem to justify the decision. However, this figure equates to just over £10 000 per undergraduate, a figure in line with those quoted by the Rector for Undergraduate students College-wide as justfication for increased tuition fees.
Whilst references to the closure of the Department of Agricultural Sciences may at first sound drastic, and indeed give the impression that the campus itself is to close, College are keen to stress that undergraduate teaching will continue, if only the BSc in Applied Business Management. Indeed, the changes in College structure are likely to have far wider impacts, with the creation of new departments and management structures.
WCUS is currently preparing a statement, with WCUS President Andrea Smith reassuring students that "Undergraduate teaching is continuing at Wye this year and next for certain, and the Student Union will be as active in the coming year as it has in the past."
The statement from College also says that a consultation process will begin immediately, reassuring staff that, "The College has consulted representatives from the Amicus-MSF, AUT and Unison unions from the outset and will continue to do so throughout the process," although there is currently no mention of any plans to consult students. One student commented, "I am incensed... Don't we get a say at all? Its our college!
"Live!" will report any further developments as they are announced.