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Wye to become Undergraduate Business School?

Aug 06 2004 11:55
Nichola Hawkins
Imperial's new Deputy Rector, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, has announced plans for restructuring faculties and departments throughout College, starting with its most recently-added campus.
College now wishes to be "investing only in the best facilities"... so what's this?

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.

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Discussion about “Wye to become Undergraduate Business School?”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Aug 06 2004 19:15

That's a good way to get rid of the only(?) "4" rating I suppose - just remove the department completely.

Aug 06 2004 23:22

For what Wye does, it seems to do it rather well ...

Aug 07 2004 10:22

...but among the overall "4" rating, there are some 5 and 5* research sections; it's just down to departmental structure, in this case decided on geographical grounds, that such different sections get placed in one department.

anyway, from what I can see the motivation is more financial; that said, if they remove every department where undergraduate teaching loses money, there won't be a lot left!

Aug 08 2004 08:14

On the whole "I am incensed... Don't we get a say at all? Its our college!" quote:

To whoever wrote it... No its not. It isn't "your" college at all! Do you have title deads? It is simply the college that you go to, and unlike the student's union it is not run as a democracy. This is "real life". People make decisions which affect you but over which you have no control at all. Also, if you're an undergraduate which I assume you are from the context, you are probably only going to be there for three years, which isn't really any time at all in the grand scheme of things.

And no-one has said that they are going to remove all the areas where undergraduate teaching loses money. That would be a rediculous thing to say. The transparency report carried out around 2002 indicated that _all_ undergraduate teaching loses money. As much as Dickie may like to remove undergrads from IC (oops, Imperial) his royal charter stops him.

I agree that the decision is probably financial. If and when Dickie wins his grand undergrads will pay a fortune fight _then_ he can expect departments to break even. There income (for teaching) will be directly proportional to the number of undergraduates. As the agricultural science department (for whatever reason) has been losing undergraduate numbers, you can see that Dickie looking forward 5 or 10 years cannot see how Wye can achieve financial balance without some drastic changes. So, he makes drastic changes... it makes sense.

Aug 08 2004 09:40

[TRS] You make a good point.

What you miss though is the fact that Wye's initial worst fears have just been realised: the big nasty London college would take over nice little Wye just to shut it down after and get their (land) resources.

I just think it a little sad, especially when you think that this has probably always been the long-term plan.

Aug 09 2004 09:05

I agree. It is a shame that the best part of a thousand years of agricultural teaching will end here, but in other ways what is happening is very positive.

From what I understand, 5 years ago Wye was in real financial trouble. It was losing about 1.5mil a year and had racked up about 30mil in total debt. The University of London couldn't justify its continued existance and so virtually forced IC (oops... Imperial) to take it on. Agricultural student numbers have been falling fairly steadily for the last 30 years (the odd upward blip, but nothing to get excited about). So... if Wye didn't move into a new field (excuse the pun) we would probably see it close, which has to be worse. The main college building would probably be converted into something else and the College of Saint Gregory and Saint Martin would soon become nothing more than a memory.

This isn't the first time this has happened to Wye either... it was originally set up as college for priest specifically to pray for John Kempe's ancestors... it didn't become an agricultural college until towards the end of the 19th century (IIRC).

Aug 09 2004 09:05

Now that's not bad for a South Ken C*nt is it :-)

8. Sciv   
Aug 09 2004 12:55

So Wye is going to be left as just business? Apart from the obvious oddity in moving Life Sci to the city and leaving business in the fields, it won't be much fun being isolated from absolutely everyone will it? I know it's growing, but how big is business?

Aug 09 2004 13:02

re. the student's quote: yes, they're an undergrad (not myself, I might add) who has spent 2 academic years at Wye. While not long in Geological terms, that's two years longer than the new Deputy Rector, and 1 year, 30 weeks and 4 days longer than the Rector.

And it's not just the students not being consulted- whilst there may be some staff consultation about details (i.e. you can have a job at Silwood, you can have early retirement, etc.), the main decision was made without consulting ANYONE at Wye- the Provost only heard anything last week.

As for not removing all loss-making undergrads... my point exactly. They're not going to remove every loss-making teaching department, so they can't justify closing ours on thsoe grounds alone.

The main point, though, is that the Department HAD been losing numbers (due in no small part to a certain institution leaving Wyue out of their prospectus the first year after the merger), but after the initial dip, new intake has been rising each year. WE've just had the lowest year (as the last pre-merger year had left, and the anomalously small first post-merger year were there) and total numnbers could be expected to grow from now on.

Wye HAS been moving into new areas- plant sciences (some 5* research there), animal sciences, equine courses to get the undergrads in, international develpoment, environmental/ ecological subjects... as well as the business courses that had been going for years.

Wye has been set targets for intake and income since the merger and exceeded all of them- so how can we beleive that any of these decisions were made after College last denied having any such plans?

Besides which, after repeated assurances that this would not happen, how many Wye people believe that even the business course will continue for much longer under this plan?

Trouble is, the more rumours spread, the more likley they are to dissuade new students, so then Wye won't be meeting targets any more, and Imperial have their justification.

10. jim   
Aug 10 2004 13:18

I can't believe what has happened to Wye, Imperial has made a complete mess of it! Ten years ago Wye had the highest ever intake of undergraduates now it is struggling to keep one course going!

I left Wye 7 years ago then went on to Silwood to do a Masters so have seen how Imperial works (more like a commercial company than an academic institution).

Imperial spends too much time chasing 5* rating. It should have known from the start that Agriculture and Horticulture will never achieve 5*. IC can't blame the whole episode on a declining agricultural industry because how come the RAC (Royal Ag College) seems to be getting stronger and stronger?

If this really is the end of Wye then IC should be prepared for the repercussions, there are many proud Wye graduates out there who are not happy!

11. Beci   
Aug 10 2004 16:20

You're right, there are a hell of a lot of Wye graduates who aren't happy. One of them's sitting right here.

12. Chris   
Aug 10 2004 17:21

It'd be really cool if Wye could buy themselves and become "Wye College, Wye" or "Wye College of Agriculture, Farming and Sheep" (sorry).

I don't suppose there's any large well off universities or very very well off alumni around Kent are there? Imperial don't want to keep losing money and Wye isn't worth much other than as a Uni (or a farm), is it? So it'd keep everyone happy, and Wye IS pretty good.

Aug 10 2004 17:42

Well five years ago, Wye was unviable as an unmerged (although already UL) college- from what I've heard, this had something to do with fewer agriculture students, and a lot to do with the bottom suuddenly falling out of the GM crop market- but Imperial knew this at the time, and since then all trends have been upwards. Alright, it was Oxburgh not Sykes back then, but we've only ever seen improvements on each point at which we were told Wye would remain open (a couple of very notable times this very year, by and on behalf of the Rector himself).

A lecturer once told us that while visiting a project in asia, he told the people there about the merger, to which they replied, "You said it the wrong way around- surely you mean Wye is taking over Imperial!" -while not that famous in the Pharmaceutical industry, Wye's reputation worldwide in Agriculture and Environmnetal fields is still stronger than Imperial would care to realise.

I don't think Wye would be independently viable again just yet- that said, Imperial's behaviour could probably be likened to selling off a load of shares that have just reached their lowest possible value before they go up again.

Someone had better shut me up before I start drawing "the" graph (intake is rising, total will now stop falling) yet again...

14. Chris   
Aug 11 2004 11:31

There's a little bit more of a bottom in the GM crop market, but still adversity to GM bottoms.

15. Pip C   
Aug 11 2004 12:29

The news is sad but rather expected. When I left Wye 7 years ago the place was thriving and vibrant , and i had a great 3 years there. I feel that the Imperial take over was little more than a money making move. Sure Wye had financial problems but it also had a worldwide reputation and many hundreds of years of history which Imperial could have built on if they chose. However Wye hardly fits Imperials 'Ethos' of trying to offer an alternative to Oxbridge and expanding its prestigousLondon sites. Rasing entry requirements to ludicrous levels for Agric, hortic and related studies proved a death sentance, and now only buisness studies is left. But for how long? Wye must be a prime site for housing development, near Ashford and the Channel Tunnel. What a pat on the back for Imperial from the rural-phobic govenment- get rid of an agric college AND build a few more thousand homes.

Aug 11 2004 18:33

Altera=native to Oxbridge? I've lost count of the number of friends who look at the Quadrangles of Wye and note a similarity, how many have said that about Sherfield, Lego or even Tanaka? (That said, it might be more likely for the buildings Imperial knocked down a few years ago to rplace with square concrete...)

Anyway, Wye courses have often been a pretty good (and often more useful) alternative to "Land Economy" and suchlike, for would-be Oxbridge students who wish to know how to get profit from the half of rural Hampshire that Daddy owns.

As for housing, it's full of AONB, SSSI, NNR, and many more conservation designations than you shake a shepherd's crook at. Even the College Buildings are grade II listed, so would have to be coverted with a sensitivity that would squeeze out at lot of the profit there; and the Withersdane site is getting on for a 1/2 hour walk from the railway station, which has no parking.

The sciecne students are coming in at the new entry levels, but the change was just too sudden: when the agreement was signed, 5 years probably seemed like plenty- and a lot of progress ahs been made in that time, but you can't turn a College into a new Oxbridge overnight, otherwsie the rest of Imperial would be there!

And it's STILL the top Agric department in the country.

Chris, re. GM bottoms, has Martin found that camera yet???

17. art   
Aug 12 2004 14:00

i never trusted those imperial w**kers in the first place. On the whole its not completely surprising that imperial has screwed us over!

Aug 12 2004 15:34

I think WCUS needs to make a strongly worded statement that clarifies its position and outlines its proposals for fighting these silly restructuring plans.

All I've heard from Wye so far is a lot of "Oh deary me, how dreadful!" and "Bloody Londoners! Kill them all!". How about a bit more of "Right. Let's do something about this." ?

Aug 12 2004 17:37

Last thing I heard from Andrea, she's trying, but a certain ICU Sabb cancelled her meeting today...

Aug 12 2004 17:41

...although the Union's first priority was, of course, to reassure current students that they will not be moved mid-course.

Aug 12 2004 17:48

My first priority was actually to determine exactly what was going on.

The Deputy Rector cancelled his meeting with me so I did not have enough information on which to have a sensible discussion. I therefore shelved my plans for an emergency Exec meeting and instead spent yesterday at Wye talking to people 'on the ground' to get a clearer picture of what is going on. I'm still in the process of digesting the information gathered - and extracting stuff out of College HQ but intend to have an Exec meeting (hopefully next week) as soon as I am in a sensible position to "do something".

Aug 12 2004 18:21

By "the Union," in this case I meant WCUS (partly because some interest has been from pre-merger alumni).

The last thing we want to do is issue anything more "strongly-worded" than we have the facts to back up. (Hardly surprising that College people are in no hurry to talk about their plans...) For now, it's just a question of passing on whatever we do know, and involving other students in whatever way we can; to that end, a bulletin and message board has been set up (with involvement of individual WCUS officers but not as an official Union response, watch some wording get stronger when out of the carfully-treading official setting), and is linked from the WCUS website.

23. Dickie   
Aug 15 2004 18:06

As a mate of Jim's I agree with everything he said. I wouldn't be where I am proffessionally without Wye, and the UK food industry can only go downhill as a result.

If Imperial College hadn't alienated Wye's traditional student base so they now go to what are now better courses at various regional agricultural and land-based colleges, Wye could still be ticking over, albeit not making a fortune. How many members of the Agricola Club want the waste of paper that is IC News that comes through the door? If half the money that went into that went on education, IC might be in a better position overall.

As for the fact that there are 'two' student unions (WCUS and ???), well it sums it up really.

If I was eighteen again, I'd be off to Hadlow or Writtle like a shot!

Aug 15 2004 21:50

WCUS is still the student union for Wye, but it is now part of Imperial College Union (how much difference that really makes in practice is very variable).

And I don't think alienating tradition is unique to Imperial's treatment of Wye, ask any IC old lag about what happened to the Constituent Colleges during the Faculty Restructuring.

Aug 15 2004 21:51

...or, for that matter, the rebranding.

26. Andrew   
Aug 19 2004 20:09

Just as a matter of interest Wye was due to break even in 08/09 provided that it kept to a plan agreed by college. Wye has indeed stuck to or exceeded their targets, further to this the debt that exists was built into and accepted as being part of this plan.

27. Beci   
Aug 20 2004 09:57

When's this big fat meeting about "the future of Wye" meant to be taking place?

Aug 20 2004 15:50

It would appear that WCUS are waiting for an icu meeting, and ICU are waiting for a College meeting, and College (unsurprisingly) are in no hurry.

In the meantime go and sign "Wye Forever"! (Linked from email and the WCUS homepage) -If there is to be a meeting we really need to bring to it a definite indication of wide student support.

So far the long-gone Old Boys are far outstripping us in terms of number of signatories. This has advantages, they're mainly working in agriculture-related sectors crying out for Wye graduates, but let's show them that present-day students also see the value of Wye, or they'll all go away sounding like Ned...

As for the original mnerger terms- having seen College's statement I'd be very surprised if the new Deputy rector has a clue, he's just seen something that is losing money now and decided it must go now.

Aug 24 2004 15:12

WCUS - Note on your website - you have set up a livejournal or an LJ. You have not set up a Live journal. Or indeed a Live! journal.

30. Beci   
Aug 25 2004 14:49

picky picky picky ....

Aug 29 2004 20:37

What about the graduate courses, such as Plant Biotechnology? Will they be transferred to the Life Sciences department, or will they be stopped like the undergraduate courses? Anyone mentioned anything about graduates?

Aug 30 2004 15:11

Under these plans, there would certainly be no pstgraduate courses at Wye. Some biological courses will be run at South Kensington, but I'm not sure how plant biotech would fare without Wye's estate, allotments and greenhouse complexes...

Aug 31 2004 08:50

Well Silwood might do them. Wye is not the only campus outside London.

Sep 01 2004 18:06

Silwood is an ecological research station, set up for ecological field work (and nuclear power!?)- it doesn't have the plant biotech facilities Wye has. We're talking specialist greenhouse complexes, with high precision controlled atmospheric conditions, chemical applications, airtight seals, etc, all next to the molecular research labs- there's more to Wye's setup than fields and tractors!

Why rebuild the lot at Silwood instead? I'm sure land prices in Ascot aren't especially low...

Sep 02 2004 10:06

Would external work colleagues of Wye staff want to visit them at Silwood given that it is out of the way and not easily accessible by bus or rail transport? Wye is 5 minutes walk from a mainline train station.

Sep 02 2004 15:40

...And has offices of various conservation organisations on site, a DEFRA office down the road, nature reserves all around- even if Imperial were to move academic activity towards environment rather than agriculture, the Wye setup could not be replicated without huge expense and a long time.

Waht's more worrying is that some figures show the LifeSci annual defecit growing, while Wye's contribution has been gradually shrinking, so this seems to be the least sustainable solution possible.

37. Steve   
Sep 02 2004 18:07

We don't need farmers anyway... ;)

38. C!   
Sep 02 2004 19:23

Of course we need farmers. Without them what would there be to talk about on a certain national lunchtime radio programme?

  • UK farmers in trouble because of too much rain
  • Some other farmers in trouble due to too many locusts
  • Farmers in trouble due to drought
  • Farmers in trouble due to harvest happenening when students are back at school / college hence no cheap labour
  • Farmers failing to produce milk as cheap as their foreign rivals
Sep 03 2004 09:03

Don't need farmers?

Ah, so electronic engineers don't need to eat to live! And the oil reserves are now finite (no need for energy crops, and we can all wear pure nylon).

Never mind "We don't need farmers in this country," Wye is world-class, even running MSc courses specifically aimed at developing couintries.

Sep 03 2004 12:48

Of course I meant to say infinite- unlike the home internet connection I was using.

41. C!   
Sep 03 2004 20:56

Yeah, don't criticise farmers - it's not like food grows on trees!

42. Why   
Sep 03 2004 21:14

Why wye??

why wye wye...

Sep 04 2004 09:06

Well, not on any old trees (sycamore soup, anyone?) And not all food does grow on trees, and even that which does needs constant protection from pests and disease.

(And of course everyone derrogating the animal agriculture there is a vegan, rather than a hypocrite)

But Wye graduates aren't just giong on to be farm labourers (that's what Hadlow's for ;-P ), they're scientists or business managers applying their knowledge to agriculture Already the Wye Forever board has comments from old boys in a range of industries crying out for Wye graduates.

44. me   
Sep 15 2004 12:49

is the buisness couse (appliment buisness management) any good? i mean it says requirements BBC whereas most subjects across imperial need AAB so i wus just wondering how come??

Sep 15 2004 14:51

Pre-merger, Wye was asknig lower grades than Imperial, largely because of the greater emphasis placed on practical experience in most of the subjects- whether you got a B or C in a certain a'level was thougt less relevant than whether someone had worked in the field and kept up-to-date with the relevant literature (you can't do A'level Agriculture); there were still a very good proportion of 2:1s, with a scattering of 1sts, coming out at the end.

At the merger, Imperial suddenly brought entry grades into line with their own, whilst missing Wye out of their prospectus, so numbers went down, hence they subsequently had to lower grades slightly to increase numbers. Like everything else at Wye, entry grades are now in very strong recovery from the merger, hence the senselessness of closing anything right now.

As for the standard, I'll leave that for someone on that course to decide.

I certainly wouldn't put it head-and-shoulders above everything else at Wye: dare I suggest that as a non-lab-based course it's just cheaper to run?!

(See Rector's speeches re. Tuition Fees for his assertions that Imperial would not compromise on quality lab-based degrees in favour of cheaper non-lab programmes just to save money...)

46. me   
Sep 16 2004 10:16

ok fair point but isn't it unfair that I work my ass of to get an AAA and get into imperial and then there are some people who use wye as a backdoor (i know people who have) get a BBC and then get to write in their CV that their from imperial with a buisness degree??

Sep 16 2004 13:52

Yes, a Business degree. You don't say what course you're on but I know if you're at South Kensington it's not an Undergraduate Business degree.

Entry grades vary between subjects within institutions almost everywhere- even within South Kensington you need lower grades for Geology than Medicine.

But remmeber this was all a temporary problem at the time of the merger, that's well on the way to being overcome now as numbers go up and so admissions staff can be more demanding- which is why stopping any courses now is so senseless.

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