Misery as Central Beds College axes the arts

Ashley Jones, 17, outside the college
Ashley Jones, 17, outside the college

Staff and students were left “devastated” after courses at Central Beds College were axed just two months before the start of term.

The Kingsway College, which is part way through a £15 million redevelopment, has refused to confirm which courses will be cancelled but the Gazette understands that the Art & Design, Fashion, Performing Arts and Media Production departments are under threat.

A 30-day consultation over redundancies began last Wednesday.

The situation leaves many current students without a course to return to in September, while incoming students will need to secure a place elsewhere.

Performing Arts student Ashley Jones, 17, found out his course was being cut on Facebook.

He said: “It’s my passion, it’s a lot of people’s passion. For some people, the arts bring out the real them.

“It’s very good to have a life to enjoy what you’re doing. I’m not good academically but on the stage I love it. I don’t know what else I should do right now. It feels as though I’ve been made redundant as well.”

Ashley has completed the first year of his college course, but describes being stuck in “limbo” about what will happen next year.

He added: “The entire situation, I don’t know who to blame. We’ve really not been given any information.

“I would rather have been told face to face than find out on Facebook.”

The college has said that its government funding settlement for the 2015-16 academic year has been reduced by a “significant percentage” which has forced it to make a “reduction in our offer to the students of Central Bedfordshire.”

In a letter to prospective students whose courses have been cancelled, vice principal Sarah Mortimer said that the college has withdrawn from subjects where “enrolments and demand are declining” for the “forseeable future”.

Lecturers were allegedly told of their redundancies last Wednesday, June 17.

Fashion design tutor Helen Woollams took to Facebook to voice her anger. She said: “For all those who voted in this Conservative government, why I thank you. Today, the whole arts department was culled. I and all my colleagues made redundant.

“Thinking about the students I have been honored to work beside for the last three years, today I am devastated, my heart aches literally. Today will be spent marking the books surrounded by their amazing final exhibition...devastated.”

Ashley and other pupils affected by the changes were invited to the college this week for guidance.

He added: “I thought it would be one-to-one guidance, but instead they just had us all in one room and I was told I’d have to go to Milton Keynes if I wanted to continue my course.

“I didn’t find it reassuring at all.”

One parent, who asked not to be named, told the Gazette that her daughter no longer has time to apply for a university place after her Art and Design foundation degree was cancelled.

She said: “I am fuming, it is diabolical.

“My daughter accepted a place at Central Beds College and now it is too late for her to apply to go anywhere else.

“She has now got a year where she cannot do anything at all.”

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