Glasgow Caledonian University has announced that it intends to rent out its New York campus as an events venue in order to raise funds. The University has failed to obtain a license from the New York State Education Department in the three years since the project has been set up, meaning that it cannot yet enrol degree students.
The University agreed a 12-year lease on the premises in 2013, with the intention of having classes in fashion and risk management up and running in the autumn of 2014. The unexpected delay in having a license granted, however, appears to have derailed this timescale.
The New York campus was initially funded by a loan of £5.6 million granted in the 2014-15 financial year. A further £4m was granted the following financial year, bringing the total to £9.6m. The University has maintained that this money has been taken entirely from its own private funds and not from public money.
At the moment, Glasgow Caledonian University looks to be facing some financial issues, having recorded a loss of £2.7m in the 2015-16 year, its first net loss in the past nine years.
Short non-degree courses have previously been offered on the New York campus in order to raise funds during the wait for a license. Renting the space is the latest scheme by the University to generate a revenue. It has so far been used by high-profile brands such as Nike and Banana Republic, as well as for an exhibition for artist Gerald Burns. In early December, it was used by French model Julia Restoin-Roitfeld as a Le Marche Bleu holiday pop-up shop to promote a vodka brand.
The project has faced much criticism since its conception, particularly from the University’s union. Dr Nick McKerrell, the union convenor, has been especially vocal.
He said: ‘’We are not a pop-up shop, we are a university of higher education. We shouldn't be selling foie gras, caviar and Champagne to the wealthy of Manhattan.
"We are a higher education institution. To do such a thing demeans us academically, and I think we need to look at why we have not got the licence and how we can get out of this without losing more money for staff at Glasgow."
Senior University staff have defended the decision to continue pursuing their New York venture. In the University’s annual financial statement, Professor Pamela Gillies, its principal and vice-chancellor, spoke of how there has been "downturn in the attractiveness of the UK for international students" as a result of what will likely be "toughened changes to the student visa regime". They maintain that internationalism will be key to the institution’s future success, having already established small campuses in London, Bangladesh and Oman.