Part 7: From Expansion to Retrenchment: the 1970s

Principal Baillie Ruthven joined Moray House in 1975 at a time of significant institutional change, as outlined here.

The previous period of teacher shortages had meant that the colleges had been in a strong bargaining position vis a vis the SED when claims for additional staffing and buildings were more likely than not to be agreed to by the Department.

However, because of falling birth rates and curbs on public expenditure in the early 1970s reductions in student numbers became inevitable. The first evidence of impending change occurred in 1976 when the expectations of students for obtaining jobs as readily as in previous years was suddenly replaced by the prospect of unemployment. The annual round of early summer term interviews between students and local education authority staff brought into sharp relief the lack of jobs.

This led to the first of a series of student occupations at Moray House and other colleges throughout the UK. Discussions held at national level about the over capacity in the colleges of education were followed by the publication of the government’s policy document: Teacher Training from 1977 Onwards. The proposed scale of reductions in student intakes called into question the survival of all ten colleges of education. Difficult discussions ensued at college and national levels and between staff representatives (for academic staff ALCES), college managements and the SED.

Local and national campaigns were organised in support of the retention of all the colleges of education and this led to the government initially backing down. Documents from Callendar Park’s campaign and those associated with the occupations at Moray House are lodged in the Moray House Archive.

At Moray House the implications of the government’s public expenditure cuts, particularly on the staffing levels, were becoming apparent. The Board of Governors after their meeting of 11/5/1976 issued a press statement highlighting the problem. ‘Voluntary redundancy’ was minuted for the first time in Governors’ papers in June 1977. By June 1978 the Board recorded that the college had over 30 staff more than the SED’s imposed academic staffing complement. Fortunately, a combination of staff volunteering to take early retirement and the SED’s support for ‘School-Focussed In-service’ meant that staffing was able to come into balance without the need to resort to compulsory redundancies. However, further cuts were again required in 1979/80.

The consolidation of the colleges of education

With a Conservative government elected in 1979 the problem of over-capacity was once again on the political agenda. It came as no surprise when the government proposed in 1980 that Hamilton and Callendar Park Colleges of Education should be closed. The future of Craiglockhart College in Edinburgh was also subject to intense discussions, with the Catholic Church finally agreeing to the merger of Craiglockhart and Notre Dame Roman Catholic Colleges of Education and the creation of St Andrews College of Education at Bearsden.

Following the retirement of Professor Ruthven in 1981, his successor, Gordon Kirk, was immediately faced with having to make arrangements for the incorporation of Callendar Park College of Education with Moray House.

The contraction of Moray House during this period is clear from its student numbers: in 1975/6 the College had a total of 2,707 students; by 1983/4 this had fallen by nearly 60% to 1,121.

Additional mergers remained on the political agenda and in 1986 the Secretary of State for Scotland announced that ‘the training of physical education teachers, both men and women, will be centralised on the site of the present Dunfermline College of Physical Education at Cramond.

Dunfermline College was then merged with Moray House creating an enlarged College in 1987 with a single new Board of Governors. [In 2001 Moray House’s former Cramond Campus was closed by the University of Edinburgh and its courses and facilities relocated to a refurbished St Leonard’s Land at Holyrood.

The consolidation of the colleges of education was only one aspect of the changes in Scottish higher education occurring at this time. At the start of the 1980s there were three main sectors: the universities, the central institutions and the colleges of education. Only the last two sectors were funded directly by the Scottish Office.

In 1988 there were 25 higher education institutions in Scotland but by 2000/1 consolidation had led to the creation of a largely university-based system of higher education in Scotland.

More information about the consolidation in Scottish higher Education between 1981 and 2001 can be downloaded here.

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