A SINGLE mother has told the Times she may have to consider dropping out of her degree course, after the University of Ulster announced proposals to close its childcare facilities in Jordanstown.
The Times has been inundated with calls from parents angry at a proposal to close the 35-child facility this July which will see 17 staff members lose their jobs.
A single mother who is studying health care said the closure could see her being forced to leave her studies behind and look for employment.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I only decided to go to Jordanstown because of the childcare facilities available on campus.
“It costs me £150 per week, which is not cheap, but still much more affordable than any other facilities in the area.
“I have looked around at other child care places and they are much more expensive and do not compare with what the university currently offers.
“The service is second to none, the staff treat my child like a member of the family, they are so dedicated and hard working. My son walks in happy and comes out with a big smile on his face, the staff really are totally dedicated.
“Plus, having my son just five minutes away on campus gives me a great feeling of security and relief.”
The 30-year-old added: “I get funding for my course and have to pay 70 per cent of the child care costs.
“I went back to study to provide a better life for my son and rely on the childcare on offer. If I can’t find it elsewhere at such an affordable rate then I will have to pull out of study and probably get a job.”
Another parent, a lecturer at the university, said she was shocked at the university’s decision.
She said: “To completely close the creche makes no sense at all to me, they have a facility that is in demand as there is a waiting list and one that offers a vital service to staff, students and the community.
“I feel all the options have not been properly considered to keep the facility open. If people are using it and its in demand then why close it?
“The university has said it can not allow the facility to operate at a deficit any longer, but the deficit is about £30,000 a year and it has been for about 20 years.
“The cost is a tiny fraction of the university’s overall running costs and it is something a lot of large employers do offer. To me it is something they just want rid of before the move to Belfast.”
She added: “The creche is a fantastic facility and the staff do a tremendous job. My children play with others from such a wide variety of backgrounds, the learning experience is brilliant and to lose that would be a shame.”
NUS-USI, the body which represents higher education students, said it was disgusted at the plans to close the creche.
President Adrianne Peltz said: “This is an extremely retrograde step and as someone who studied whilst caring for a child, I am absolutely appalled at this news.
“The creche should not be operating as commercial ventures, they should instead be a support service for students. The university says the plans for closure are due to changing lifestyles; however, instead of proposing closures, they should be looking at greater support and accessibility for students who need to use this facility.”
A spokesman for the university said: “The University of Ulster is proposing to close its university-managed childcare facilities in Jordanstown.
“This is because students are not using the facilities in the same numbers due to changing lifestyles. The university has had to sustain a significant deficit annually and it is no longer viable in these financially constrained times to operate university-run facilities.
“Under the proposal, the university will continue to financially support childcare for those students who are most in need, irrespective of where it is provided.
“The decision in principle to close the creche at Jordanstown is the subject of continuing discussions with staff trade union representatives in the university. The university management will be meeting the unions again, and we will not be issuing any further comment on the matter while those discussions are in progress.”