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Controversy Over Closure Of UoN’s Creative and Professional Writing Course

The University of Nottingham’s Creative and Professional Writing (CPW) course is to be shut down, causing controversy amongst students.

A letter was sent to students on 24 December 2014, to inform them that their course would stop taking applications with immediate effect, but did not specify why, only that they had ‘reluctantly come to this decision following in depth discussion.’

If the Head of Chemistry leaves, are they going to close the Chemistry course too?

Students quickly set up a Facebook group to gather support in protest of the closure. One student posted a screenshot of an email from Andrew Noyes, head of The School of Education, to a prospective student explaining that the course was not taking new applications due to the departure of the Course Leader, and they would be allowed a new application choice on UCAS.

course closure

Alumni, Lisa Shipman, told Impact, “I feel shocked that the UoN have made the decision to close the BA, especially since it has always been a popular and over-subscribed course.

I feel the decision to close the BA is a short-sighted one

At a time when intake for A Level Creative Writing is high, and the recent announcement of Nottingham’s bid for UNESCO City of Literature status, I feel the decision to close the BA is a short-sighted one.

I am currently working proficiently in a number of fields – publishing, teaching, writing and outreach – all thanks to the practical and theoretical knowledge I gained whilst on the BA. Such a shame it is closing. As to why? Apparently a ‘variety of reasons’ none of which have been clarified.”

If they thought the course did not fit in with The School of Education, why did they not just move it to another department?

An email from the Director of Taught Courses, on January 8th to all taught undergraduates in the department advised that students should, “Try opening up a dialogue, noticing what emerges from that, and also what can be learned from the situation. Hopefully, you will feel met by the other person and responded to with respect.”

She went on to state: “The dialogue may not make the disappointment go away, but hopefully, the relational experience will have lessened any resentment and given you a different perspective to consider. Try and remember that you are also capable of disappointing others, even if you don’t mean to. It is only human to disappoint.. and also to feel disappointed.”

Why did the university not find a more appropriate place for this unique and highly successful degree programme?

One third year student told Impact, “We are being given many conflicting reasons but have not been given an official one. If they thought the course did not fit in with The School of Education, why did they not just move it to another department?”

Another student commented, “If the Head of Chemistry leaves, are they going to close the Chemistry course too?”

The students have thrived despite rather than because of university support

A CPW alumni informed Impact: “I think they’re closing the course for the good reason that it doesn’t fit in with their core business. This course was borne out of an Adult Education course and became a degree after the government cut funding to it. The School of Education (SoE) have never been interested in running undergraduate degrees, particularly degrees that are unrelated to education.

“So the courses have never been effectively marketed or supported, tutors have on the whole been hourly-paid (i.e. only contracted to deliver specific modules), and as a result the students have thrived despite rather than because of university support”.

I know at least some of the current tutors weren’t informed at all, but heard via Facebook

She went on to express: “The big question as far as CPW goes, is: why did the university not find a more appropriate place for this unique and highly successful degree programme? Particularly as Nottingham is about to submit an application to become a UNESCO City of Literature, and UoN is a supporter of that project.

They haven’t communicated with me at all about this. I’ve seen the communications sent out to current students and tutors, and in my view they’re inadequate and vaguely insulting – the email/blog post about ‘disappointment’ (partially quoted above) sent by Belinda Harris is patronising and inappropriate. I know at least some of the current tutors weren’t informed at all, but heard via Facebook.”
I’d [Nicola] put four and a bit years of my heart and soul into running and developing the programme and I find this situation very upsetting
Nicola Valentine, former Course Leader told Impact, “To suggest that my departure was one of the reasons for this decision upsets me. The University had almost six months’ notice that I was leaving; ample time to replace me. In fact, two of my part time colleagues have been put in charge of the course, so finding new course leadership really wasn’t that hard. To hear about this decision via Facebook was pretty shocking. I’d put four and a bit years of my heart and soul into running and developing the programme and I find this situation very upsetting.”

A spokesperson for The University of Nottingham said: “The University remains committed to creative writing through the BA English with Creative Writing and the MA in Creative Writing, both in the School of English, as well as the new MA Creativity, Literacies and Learning in the School of Education.

The timing of the decision just before the Christmas break unfortunately made communication with staff, students and potential applicants more challenging than we [The School of Education] would have liked.

“With shifting patterns of recruitment and recent changes in staffing, it was an appropriate time to reconsider the strategic fit of the course with the School of Education’s longer term plans. Following a thorough business review, the School leadership decided the programme should close; the final graduates will complete in 2017.

“The timing of the decision just before the Christmas break unfortunately made communication with staff, students and potential applicants more challenging than we would have liked. However, it was important for us to communicate the decision immediately to this year’s UCAS applicants in order for them to make another course selection.

The School of Education is to hold a meeting on January 23rd with student to outline fully the reasons for closure.

Caroline Chan

Images: Caroline Chan, obtained anonymously from Creative and Professional Writing students

 

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5 Comments on this post.
  • Charles Chad Valentine
    14 January 2015 at 18:29
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    they had six months to appoint a new course leader but didn’t. Doesn’t that suggest, just a little bit, that they knew months ahead of the decision what they were going to do once niki’s left?

  • Michael
    14 January 2015 at 21:23
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    Good decision. Sounds like a mickey mouse course to me. Seeing as a more rigorous course is offered by the English department – with entry grades of AAA-AAB – why offer this course?

    • C
      15 January 2015 at 08:55
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      If that’s the reason, they why not just say that? Instead, they are in effect scapegoating their ex course leader as the reason for the closure

  • Helena Durham
    22 January 2015 at 08:58
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    Michael, have you looked at all the modules available or asked any student for information about the course? I suggest your comment is ill-informed and hurtful.

    An admission A level requirement is not necessarily an indicator of a student’s ability, particularly in the case of mature students and in more creative fields. There were students on the course with PhDs, previous degrees and other professional qualifications. Nor does an admission offer mean no student obtained higher grades at A level. Many of the younger students did, but because creative and professional writing was their chosen field, they opted for this course. As you will, I’m sure, appreciate, every course in the university has en external examiner who ensures the academic standard befits a UoN course. It has been revalidated annually for the last 7 years.

  • Matt
    26 January 2015 at 19:18
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    Aye, I’m gonna have to second that Michael, I was on this course and I got A*,A,A,B at A-Level. Whole mix of people, less conventional set up, and as the quote in the article mentions, suffered more for lack of support structures from the university as a whole than weaknesses within itself. I never understood why they didn’t create links between it and the school of English but imagine that has to do largely with money.

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