13 September 2023
The University of Northampton has announced that it has entered a formal period of internal consultation to determine the future of leather education and research at the university.
It said it had taken this decision against a backdrop of “a fall in student demand for this subject area, the economic downturn, and rising energy prices”, writes Leatherbiz.
The Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT), now located at the university’s new Waterside campus, has taught leather professionals from all over the world for generations, offering undergraduate and post-graduate teaching. It has also engaged in high-level research to help the global industry advance. It officially opened the new leather centre at Waterside in 2019.
A statement from the university said: “Declining applications over a number of years and rising costs have resulted in the subject area being reviewed as a going concern.”
Vice-chancellor, Anne-Marie Kilday, added that the university had not taken the decision lightly. She said: “The academic study of leather at the University of Northampton has been a valued part of our offer since 1995. The number of UK leather producers has been in decline, and the largest producers are now China, Brazil, Russia, India and Italy. This has severely impacted the number of domestic students, and has not delivered commensurate international students.”
She said recruitment of international students had also been affected by the UK’s departure from the European Union in 2020 and said that this had contributed to “the loss of a regular flow of students from Italy” in particular.
Professor Kilday said Northampton’s research in leather was “world-leading”, but she insisted research income was not offsetting the “cost of teaching dwindling student numbers”.
She said the university would publish a new strategy in October. She said she hoped to be able to include a practical solution to retain leather as a subject area. But she added: “We must however recognise the implications of continuing to cross-subsidise leather education and research.”