Sunderland University to close glass and ceramics course based at National Glass Centre

The National Glass Centre, on the banks of the River Wear, is home to Sunderland University's glass and ceramic courses. Credit: Sunderland University

Sunderland University has confirmed it is closing its glass and ceramics programme.

The university's courses are based at the city's National Glass Centre (NGC), which is closing due to structural issues with the building.

A report looking at the viability of relocating the course concluded it would cost in the region of £9.4m to move equipment from the NGC and make the necessary changes to the university's City Campus.

The board of governors has decided the move is not financially viable and the course will close in the summer of 2026, allowing current students to complete their studies.

It means no new students will be enrolled in the courses which were due to start in September 2024.

The university said the announcement will not have an impact on efforts to find alternative locations for other activities based at the NGC.

Consultation has started with all staff affected by the decision.

In a statement, the university said: "The university remains committed to providing a range of courses in the arts and creative industries.

"In addition, we want to ensure that we have a forward-facing outlook as an institution and can exploit the possibilities afforded by new developments such as the Crown Works/Fulwell 73 film production studios which will be built in the city very soon.

"This announcement does not have an impact on our work to find alternative locations for other activities based at the NGC."

The university, Sunderland Culture and Sunderland City Council are in discussions about where other activities could take place, including the potential to take space in the Culture House, a development on the south side of Keel Square.

No decisions have been made regarding the future of the NGC site beyond summer 2026, the university added.

In January 2023, it was announced the NGC would move because of structural issues which would cost millions to repair.

The NGC, which underwent a £2.25million revamp in 2013, opened in 1998 and is also home to the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA). The University of Sunderland took over the running of the centre in 2010.

The centre has resident glass makers and offers a range of demonstrations and family craft programmes.

Sunderland's glass-making heritage goes back to the seventh century, when Benedict Biscop, founder of Wearmouth-Jarrow Priory, brought skilled craftsmen from Gaul to create the first stained glass window in England for St Peter's Church in Monkwearmouth.

A group named Save the National Glass Centre was set up following the announcement of changes to the NGC.

Responding to Sunderland University's latest decision on the glass and ceramics course, member Jo Howell said the group was "distraught".

In a post on an online petition to save the centre, which has garnered more than 32,000 signatures, it said: "We stand in solidarity with all of the staff and students. We are distraught to hear that like a thief in the night Sunderland University is taking away our glass and ceramic courses leading to inevitable loss of highly skilled staff, valued teachers and of course eventually the building itself.

"Filling their boots with Sunderland’s heritage and the future of glass making in the North East. We stand with you and we will fight to keep you."

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