Students’ tears over course-move plans

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STUDENTS at the Isle Campus in Wisbech have launched a petition in a bid to halt devastating cuts that will see their courses axed, forcing them to move to King’s Lynn.

The College of West Anglia blamed the devastating blow on a £3 million reduction in government funding for the next academic year. The proposal will also see 77 staff affected with up to 45 likely to lose their jobs.

Some of the 25 students on the popular performing arts course burst into tears when the proposals were announced to them last week.

Many fear the decision to relocate the course together, with computing and business courses to King’s Lynn, will make it difficult to continue with their education and fear they may be forced to quit.

Dozens of students from the Performing Arts course as well as representatives from the computing course deluged the Citizen with complaints about the proposal and asking for help in their fight to keep the courses in Wisbech.

Among them was Heaven King, who said: “When we got the news of this decision we were all in floods of tears realising what we have to leave behind and angered when we were told that we had ‘no voice within this matter’.”

Heaven said: “We are deeply outraged, disgusted and upset that this has happened as this is not just your run of the mill college course - it is also an actual theatre company.”

She explained students were drawn to the course because it gave them the opportunity to be part of the Nine Lives Theatre Company which has been established 17 years and stages three shows a year at the town’s Angles Theatre, providing participants with valuable performance experience.

Fellow student Oliver Banks pointed out the course’s links with the Angles Theatre also benefits the community theatre providing additional revenue from the Nine Lives’ shows.

Katie Brown added: “We are all very passionate about what we do and who we are, a company, a family and we all work together. Working in the theatre is one of the best opportunities we could be given, and we all love working there. We will lose this opportunity and skill if we are moved to King’s Lynn .”

Computing course students are equally devastated, many are half-way through a two-year NVQ3 - the equivalent of three A-levels - and fear the move will disrupt their learning and force many to quit because they will find commuting difficult and expensive, especially those from towns further away such as March and Chatters.

Among those concerned is 17-year-old Leoni Ayres, from March, who fears trying to get to King’s Lynn could prove difficult especially with the recent cuts to bus services.

James Lovell (16) said the relocation of courses could affect as many as 300 students from the Wisbech campus and said they were concerned about how everyone would be accommodated at King’s Lynn.

He added the college was trying to stop the duplication of courses but pointed out that many of the courses are offered at both King’s Lynn and Wisbech.

Principal David Pomfrett said: “We are seeing the start of several years of government funding cuts for further education and this is beginning to affect colleges across the whole country. Cowa needs to make budget savings of £3.4m and, although we are planning to deliver the major part of this through reductions in non-pay budgets, the reality is that we cannot continue to deliver the same range of courses and training at all our locations in light of these funding cuts.

“We are committed to minimising the impact on our students and we will ensure those whose courses are affected are able to complete their studies with us, wherever possible.

“The proposals mean that a small proportion of students studying at the Isle Campus in Wisbech may need to complete their course in King’s Lynn. In these cases, the college will work to ensure that appropriate transport is arranged at no additional cost to the student.

“Although it is unfortunate that we are having to scale down the level of our activities due to funding cuts, in the next 12 months we will be constructing multi-million pound technology buildings in Wisbech and King’s Lynn.”

The college has already announced plans to move its animal care provision from Wisbech to its Milton campus at Cambridge from September next year.

Consultation closes on June 6 and final decisions made by July. To support the students petition visit: www.petitiononline.co.uk/petition/save-the-nine-lives-theatre-company/2810