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Anger Over UWS Plans
The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) could leave Hamilton and relocate to an office park in North Lanarkshire.
There are big concerns over the move, with politicians saying it would be a huge blow for students and the town.
The Hamilton campus of UWS was denied funding for a new building earlier this year.
They required £27 million of match funding from the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government to create a £53 million new campus – but their application was rejected.
The university confirmed that they are discussing plans to relocate, and students will be consulted once the new semester starts on September 14.
Hamilton Labour councillor Monica Lennon says it would be a huge blow if the town were to lose the UWS campus and that the proposed site at The Maxim Office Park, off the M8 near Eurocentral, would be hard to access for many students.
She said: “I really don’t think a site on the M8, that is not really close to big centres of population, would be good for students.
“Most students come from Lanarkshire and a lot from more modest working class backgrounds.
“The Hamilton campus is so accessible by train and public transport. If it is on the outskirts of the M8 a lot of people would rule it out.
“That would impact on young people’s opportunities.
“There are already 140,000 fewer people going to college across Scotland. UWS offer a really great range of courses – people can do everything from an HND right up to a PhD.”
Monica also says the wider impact on the town of losing UWS cannot be underestimated.
The university status of the town is something she has been trying to promote through her work with Hamilton Business Improvement District.
She added: “There are also a lot of people who work at UWS, and it brings a lot of spend into the area.”
Student president at the Hamilton campus, Doug McWhirter, says there are three options currently on the table.
The options are: relocating to The Maxim Office Park, relocating to the Hamilton Technology Park or building a new facility in Hamilton.
Due to funding not being secured, any new building would be on a smaller scale than the original £53 million plan.
Doug said: “It’s not a guarantee that we’re moving out.
“Students haven’t been consulted. We’re consulting with the staff and external stakeholders.
“Once Freshers starts, we’ll start running events for students to be consulted.
“All three options are considered equal at the moment.”
Hamilton SNP MSP Christina McKelvie says she will be pushing for further funds from the Scottish Funding Council. She said: “I was disappointed that the Funding Council turned down the application in January, but I hope that door is not finally closed and I will continue to push for further funds. What we need is a campus in Hamilton that is exciting, appealing and attractive.
“We need it in the town, which is the economic centre, either on the current site or at the technology park. I will always argue that the campus must stay here in the town and that any idea of moving to the Maxim Park in the middle of a motorway and with very poor public transport links must be rejected.”
Lindsay Freeland, chief executive of South Lanarkshire Council, is keen to see the UWS campus stay in Hamilton. He said: “We believe it is highly advantageous to have a university in the area, so we were encouraged by UWS’s original vision for a new campus at Almada Street and shared its disappointment when matched funding was not forthcoming.
“We have been in regular contact with the university over the alternative plans it is now examining for a new campus, and we remain hopeful that UWS will still bring a new campus to Hamilton.
“It would not only deliver a much-improved learning environment, it would also be a huge economic benefit to the area during the construction phase and thereafter.”
However, North Lanarkshire Council’s regeneration convener Councillor David Fagan would be happy to see the UWS relocate to Maxim. He said: “We are delighted to be approached by the university authorities, who are considering moving the Hamilton campus from its present location in Almada Street.
“To have a university campus within North Lanarkshire would be a tremendous feather in our cap and acknowledge the huge investment and progress in education, employment and skills we have made in recent years.”
A University of the West of Scotland spokesperson said: “The university, which is extremely proud of the key role it plays in Lanarkshire as the region’s only university, is currently considering a range of options.
“All options are being fully appraised and no decision has been taken, nor is there a preferred option.
“A detailed options appraisal will be presented to the university’s governing body, Court, for consideration by the end of the year.”