University Marine Biological Station Millport may close

University Marine Biological Station Millport The University Marine Biological Station Millport could close by the end of 2013

A scientific research centre on the Isle of Cumbrae could be set to close with the loss of up to 30 jobs.

Staff at the University Marine Biological Station Millport have been told it could shut by the end of 2013.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has withdrawn the £400,000 which it gives the University of London to run the station.

A partnership deal to run the site with St Andrews University fell through over a lack of capital investment.

Diane Robertson, finance and administration manager at the Millport station, said staff were "devastated" at the prospect of closure.

'Fragile economy'

"This will have a big impact on the island's community," she said.

"The Island of Cumbrae is a designated fragile economy and we are the largest employer of people who are resident on the island."

Start Quote

Unless a solution is found in the next few weeks that secures the long term viability...it is expected that the decision to close it will be taken at the university's board of trustees meeting on 30 January”

End Quote University of London

Ms Robertson said the station employed 30 staff, boosted by about six seasonal summer workers, to accommodate about 2,000 UK and international students each year.

She said a "lack of funding and investment" over previous years had led to the current problems.

"Staff numbers have reduced by about 20% over the past few years, due to people not being replaced on leaving or retirement," she said.

"The station has been running down a bit."

Ms Robertson said the situation was unfortunate as the station had already raised £1.6m towards its future redevelopment, which the University of London would have backed with a further £1m if the present funding crisis had been averted.

"Over a period of about 15 years, that money would have turned things around, but because the funding has been withdrawn the deficit will be too high," she said.

Ms Robertson added: "The University of London has been covering our deficit, but with the withdrawal of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, it will be unable to continue to do so.

"The university and St Andrews had talks about a joint management venture but the deal has fallen through."

Joint venture

She said that without further investment, the station could close by the end of 2013 or possibly by July 2014.

In a statement, the University of London said: "The university's Marine Biological Station at Millport (UMBSM) has historically relied on a grant from HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England).

"The university has now been formally notified by HEFCE that this funding will be withdrawn."

It said no decision had yet been formally taken to close the station.

"However, unless a solution is found in the next few weeks that secures the long term viability of UMBSM, it is expected that the decision to close it will be taken at the university's board of trustees meeting on 30 January," it said.

"The university will give the maximum possible notice of closure, if that is the decision of the trustees.

"At that point, a timeframe for closure would be agreed. Staff are being informed of all decisions as and when they are made."

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