CAT Trustees, Chief Executive and Head of School GSE
United Kingdom

In April this year, students on the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) Renewable Energy Masters programme were informed that the course would not be taking a new intake in autumn 2016. This would end a long-running technical renewables MSc which has been at the core of CAT's work to develop globally sound technologies and equip people with an in-depth understanding of their applications.

Reasons cited for the closure of the programme included lower numbers of applicants than in previous years, due in part to changes in UK Government policy with regard to renewable energy. It is proposed that a more broad renewables masters is developed starting in autumn 2017, integrated with the current Sustainability and Adaptation programmes. This course, we understand, will not be primarily a technical masters aimed at producing engineers for the renewables industry. The present course is very well respected throughout the sector in this regard.

Many of the current students on the three graduate level programmes at CAT - Renewable Energy, Sustainability and Adaptation and the Professional Diploma in Architecture - are gravely concerned about this decision. We have therefore started this petition, and signed an open letter, urging CAT to retain a strong core of technical renewables teaching at Masters level.

We write firstly to express our grave concern that CAT is proposing to end its flagship Renewable Energy Masters course. We urge you to consider ways in which a strong core of technical teaching at this level can be retained and developed.

We recognise that change is needed in challenging financial circumstances. We wish to see CAT give strong priority to renewables teaching, in keeping with its mission to search for globally sustainable, whole and ecologically sound technologies and ways of life. Having been a key player in this field for forty years, we want to see CAT continue in a leading role.

Changes in UK Government policy on renewables are clearly having an effect on the industry – however we are certain this is only in the short term. The core UK emissions targets have not changed. When sense prevails – which surely soon it must – the need for skilled renewables engineers will be even greater. CAT’s graduates are well-respected in the renewables sector.

We feel CAT could be in serious danger of losing a core of skill and experience, built up over many years, in delivering high-quality renewables teaching. CAT offers a unique contribution, both nationally and internationally, to addressing the pressing challenges of climate change and sustainable energy supply. As is uniquely mapped out in CAT's own Zero Carbon Britain research.

We understand that applications for the autumn 2016 intake to the Renewables MSc (REBE) course had reached about thirty by April, and this was considered too low to make the course economically viable. There are three points we wish to make with regard to this.

1. Recruitment: as students and graduates of CAT’s courses, and as CAT supporters and members, we would be willing to help in whatever way we can. Between us we have a lot of networks and connections! We just need to be asked.

2. Cross-course Support: is it not the case that numbers on the different courses at CAT have gone up and down, and at one time the Renewables course with a large cohort of students helped support other courses with smaller cohorts? We urge that such measures be re-considered; rather than expecting the Renewables course to stand alone, financially, during this time of difficulty due to short-sighted Government policies.

3. Full-time Options: we understand that most of the thirty or so students interested in the course in autumn 2016 would pursue the full-time route. Could not the course continue to offer the full-time route over this year? This would allow time to re-shape a course to be offered in autumn 2017, tailored to levels of demand and other changes to increase the attractiveness and viability of the course. Whilst at the same time, retaining the vital core of renewables teaching skills at CAT. Where people are looking for a robust technical course, if CAT no longer offers this they will go elsewhere. Much could be lost – not least, substantial revenue.

We therefore urge you again to re-consider the situation, and to ensure CAT continues to build on its remarkable and unique experience in this field; inspiring, informing and enabling all who come to learn. Please do not dismantle a key pillar of CAT’s graduate teaching, without exploring all options to allow a strong renewables option to be retained. We are ready and willing to help in this endeavour.

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The Save Masters Level Renewables Energy Teaching at CAT petition to CAT Trustees, Chief Executive and Head of School GSE was written by Adam Howard and is in the category Education at GoPetition.