GLASSMAKERS and enthusiasts have been left shattered at the news that Dudley College is planning to close its famous International Glass Centre.
College bosses want to relocate the facility currently based in Moor Street, Brierley Hill, at their main Mons Hill campus in Dudley, as part of long-term plans to centralise courses.
But the news - which is hot on the heels of Dudley Council’s proposal to close Broadfield House Glass Museum in Kingswinford - has left many wondering what will be left of the borough’s glass industry and heritage.
Top glassmaker Vic Bamforth from Brierley Hill, who trained at the centre, said: “It’s the only international glass institute in the country - there are one or two courses at universities but they’re usually in conjunction with ceramics courses - this is unique, it’s all about techniques. The facilities are great and teaching is great.
“That’s the reason myself and my brother came up from the south to study glass.
“We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing - getting our names on top - if it hadn’t been for the glass centre. It has produced some of the most well-known and respecected glass artists in the world today.”
Glass expert Charles Hajdamach, former principal museums officer for Dudley, said the closure of the centre would be a “horrendous loss for the country and the area” and he added: “The glass centre course is a hidden gem.”
College bosses, however, say the IGC currently only has 30 students on its books and there has been a decline in enrolments since it opened in 1982 - as demand for glass training has dropped off due to many large glass manufacturers moving out of the area.
And they say centralising the centre at the main Dudley site in a “new, but smaller facility” is the only way to protect the future of glass training in the area.
Principal Lowell Williams said: “The new facility will provide a more accessible location for many of our learners who will also benefit from access to the wider range of college resources on the Mons Hill campus.
“Importantly, co-locating our glass courses with the core of our art and design provision will open up exciting new opportunities for all our full and part time art and design students, who currently do not use the IGC.
“In essence, this proposal will safeguard the long-term future of our glass programmes.”
The plan, which would see four of the six IGC staff transferred to Mons Hill, is part of the college’s five-year aim to develop new facilites in Dudley town centre and to cut the number of campuses it runs across Dudley and Brierley Hill.
A final decision is expected to be made in early July - and if the proposal goes ahead the college is likely to close before the end of the year.
Steve Johnson, the college’s director of estates said: “Difficulties with Learning and Skills Council’s funding for college capital building plans have been widely reported, but we are still confident of making significant developments over the next few years.
“Foremost of these will be the development of new buildings in Dudley, particularly Dudley town centre.”