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Education / Students plan protest at UHI Shetland to avert cuts to teaching

The UHI Shetland Lerwick campus. Photo: Shetland News

STUDENTS at UHI Shetland are planning the make their voice heard during a protest against planned cuts to staff and services at the Lerwick campus at Wednesday lunchtime.

The protest coincides with the AGM of UHI Shetland’s board of management.

The college, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, seeks savings of £1.2 million by the end of the current academic year, a move that could lead to the loss of one third of the organisation’s academic posts, it has been claimed.

As part of efforts to operate within its budget, UHI Shetland management is also proposing to reduce services at all six college learning centres established throughout the isles to allow easy and flexible access to learning.

There are already reports that travel and accommodation support for apprentices enrolled at UHI Shetland but who go south for specialist training have been cut back or even cancelled.

All staff working at the Lerwick and Scalloway campuses had been encouraged to make their own proposals for saving money by the end of last month.

The Highlands and Islands Students Association (HISA) as well as the EIS FELA union claim that all potential cuts suggested to reduce the budget deficit would disproportionally hit those who can least afford it.

The association said it encourages all students who are able to attend and show solidarity with their fellow students.

Should the weather prove unfavourable, the protest will move indoors and take the form of a silent, sit-down protest.

The association’s president William Campbell said: “The Highlands and Islands Students’ Association is saddened by the proposed cuts to essential tertiary education services in Shetland as we know this will have a significant effect on the opportunities provided to Shetlanders and the wider student body.

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“For many, the proposed cuts in services around Access courses and the Arts will have a profound effect on the career development of many residents, making it harder for Shetlanders to stay and work in the islands.

“We call on the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish government to improve funding for tertiary education in island communities to ensure they remain sustainable and thrive in the years to come.”

Students have also called on Shetland Islands Council to provide a temporary financial solution which will allow time for a thorough community impact report to be produced before any decision by the UHI Shetland board of management.

The protest outside what used to be Shetland College kicks off at 12.30pm.

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