Fewer than 100 students have graduated from a New York satellite of a Scots university since it was launched nearly eight years ago.
Glasgow Caledonian has doled out £21.4m in loans to the controversial campus, which has only brought in a fraction of that sum in tuition fees.
Mary Senior of the UCU trade union said: “UCU has consistently argued that Glasgow Caledonian’s New York campus didn’t make educational or economic sense. The few graduations since 2014 underlines this point.
“University bosses should be reversing the real terms cut in pay that staff have endured for the last decade and improving working conditions, instead of diverting resources to overseas vanity projects.”
The New York project, backed by principal Pamela Gillies, was officially opened by former Prime Minister Alex Salmond in 2014.
Nicola Sturgeon visited in 2015 and described it as an “absolutely fantastic development”.
However, the scheme failed to get off the ground in the early years.
Protracted discussions with state authorities meant Caley’s New York outpost was only able to start awarding degrees from 2017.
Covid also had a negative impact and the subsidy from Caley, known as the University for the “common good”, has grown over the years.
New figures obtained by the Record show that 129 students have enrolled on degree programs since the campus was granted a license to deliver these courses.
But only 77 students have graduated from the institution.
Caley entered into a loan agreement with the New York offshoot, of which £21.4m had been drawn down by July 2020.
Caley’s latest accounts also reveal that a £3.2m grant was provided to the project, with recruitment conditions described in the latest university accounts as “challenging”.
Net income from tuition fees came to 1.4m dollars.
Labor MSP Michael Marra said: “This project is at real risk of being another vanity project for the SNP while undermining Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in university education. The Education Minister owes people an explanation.”
Scottish Tory MSP Pam Gosal said: “This campus is beginning to look like a costly white elephant.
“Eye-catching initiatives like this must still offer value for money, and having produced fewer than 80 graduates so far this is in danger of being an expensive vanity project.
“Meanwhile in Scotland, colleges and universities are struggling to cope with funding cuts in the latest SNP budget, making it harder and harder for them to deliver top-quality further and higher education going forward.”
A spokesperson for GCU said: ‘The College started recruiting students in 2017, with the first graduations only possible in the following years. The number of students who have graduated to date reflects the US pattern of postgraduate professional study, which is predominantly part-time with flexible completion dates.
“The College is now close to completing the lengthy set-up process for a new, fully accredited education establishment, and we will see a rise in the number of students being recruited, and graduating, in the coming months and years ahead. As New York City emerges from the global pandemic, the number of new students is expected to rise further.
“Like all higher education institutions, GCU uses a variety of ways to invest in its future. Ultimately, the College will generate long-term income, increase international opportunities for our students and add to Scotland’s connections globally.”
To sign up to the Daily Record Politics newsletter, click here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.