The BA (Hons) Furniture and FDA Furniture: Conservation, Restoration and Decorative Arts are among a number of courses that have been axed by Buckinghamshire New University following a review into student numbers, cost and investment.
A statement released by the University says: “This follows a comprehensive review of the university’s course portfolio which took into consideration student number trends in recent years alongside the costs and investment required to deliver the programmes. The students who are already studying will continue to be taught until the end of their courses."
The statement goes on to make clear that the decision had not been taken lightly, but by ceasing to recruit to these courses the university hopes to refocus efforts on areas which meet the demands of students and employers and on further improvements to its campuses.
“These furniture courses have been and continue to be critical in supporting future generations of craftsmen and women coming into the furniture sector. It is a shame these have been axed and with seemingly no consultation with employer-led organisations like ours which may have been able to help drive up participation numbers to help make these more viable,” argues Jonathan Ledger, MD of National Skills Academy MPS. “It's very sad to see the erosion of yet more opportunity for students to learn a top-class skill.”
Students have launched a social media campaign against the closure of two undergraduate furniture degree courses, and in a short space of time have reported much support. Campaigners hope that it might bring to bear enough pressure to prompt university decision-makers to reverse their plans. See the Facebook campaign here.
The National School of Furniture will continue at the University - indeed, the university claims to be recruiting to specialist work-related foundation degrees and continue to teach furniture at postgraduate level.
Proskills UK and its National Skills Academy (NSA MPS) will be working with the National School of Furniture, furniture industry trade and industry organisations such as the British Furniture Confederation (BFC), British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM), The Furniture Makers and other interested bodies to ensure that this much-needed provision continues.
“It is very disappointing to hear the news that this provision is going to be removed, especially at a time when more young people are entering the furniture industry,” says Lisa Williamson, furniture industry lead at Proskills UK. “Our preference would be to keep these courses in High Wycombe as this has become the historical home of the furniture manufacturing industry.”
Buckinghamshire New University makes it clear that “there are 261 first-, second- and third-year students currently studying on the affected courses. The current cohorts will all be taught out until the end of their programmes and the quality of their tuition and student experience will be a priority for the university. The heads of academic department and student recruitment team will contact the applicants and they will be offered alternative routes of study where appropriate.”
The National School of Furniture will continue at Buckinghamshire New University through the master’s programme, and in line with its strategy when it was formed in 2010. The three main objectives of the strategy remain: "delivery of furniture education from level 1 to 8 through our partners and us; to exist as a network of supporting businesses, institutions and the Furniture Makers Company, many of whom sit on the industry board; and through the profile and contacts assist students in securing employment on graduation".
“At Bucks, we are absolutely committed to retaining High Wycombe's historical connection with the furniture industry and have introduced new courses to our portfolio such as specialist work-related foundation degrees, and we are proud to continue to teach furniture design at postgraduate level through the MA Art and Design Practice programme,” says Ian Plover, director of the Faculty of Design, Media.