SUPPORTERS of an art and design course at the University of South Wales have contacted lecturers in their droves opposing the course’s closure.

Hundreds of past and present students have joined the campaign to reverse the decision, after the university decided to close the course to focus on higher education.

A petition asking the university to keep the course open has attracted nearly 500 names and supporters will be holding a protest outside Newport’s city campus tomorrow (Friday) from 10am to noon.

The course’s two full time and three part time members of staff were told in September that the Caerleon site was to close but despite the campus remaining open until 2016, staff were told not to recruit students for next year.

Foundation Art and Design has been established in Newport for 50 years, first in the city centre before moving to Caerleon.

Lecturers say it has provided a springboard into higher education for thousands of local people, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds and without formal qualifications who might otherwise not achieve a degree.

Former student David Shellard said: “After leaving high school with almost no decent qualifications, I lost hope of ever really amounting to anything.

“This foundation course is what changed my life and helped me to actually find a purpose. I am now studying animation at university and currently loving life."

Arash Zandi gained entry to one of the world’s most prestigious art colleges after completing the foundation course.

“Not only did I learn a lot but it also helped me get a full scholarship to one of the top five art and design schools in the world, Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida,” he said.

“Charles, the head of the department, is a great leader and knows every student by first name. It would be very disappointing to see this go.”

Course leader Charles Penwarden, who has taught on the course for nearly 30 years , said: “I always knew that students enjoyed the course and how much they benefited from studying with us, but I have been amazed by the sheer scale of the support we have received.

“It is clear that the course has changed the lives of many students over the years and given them opportunities that they otherwise might never have got.”

A USW spokesman previously said: “Foundation art and design is not a higher education course but a subject which is more commonly undertaken in further education colleges.

“As part of our strategic portfolio review the university has decided to focus the university’s provision at level four (higher education courses).

“The same course is also delivered locally by Coleg Gwent and indirectly the university’s withdrawal from this subject area will help secure the viability of foundation art and design in the region.

“This takes nothing away from the passion and dedication with which staff have delivered this course.”