Hundreds of people have signed a petition opposing plans to turn a Birmingham art school into a university college.
Birmingham City University is set to turn the School of Art, based at two buildings on Linden Road and Maple Road, Bournville, into a new international college which will open its doors in the autumn.
The art school, which has been based in Bournville since 1903, will move the university’s new £61 million Birmingham Eastside campus which will be the new home for the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design from next year.
In its place will be the Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC), which will teach foundation programmes for international students wanting to study UK degrees.
More than 500 people have backed a petition opposing the changes, which will be handed over to the university on Friday (March 2).
Among those fighting the changes is Bournville Conservative councillor Nigel Dawkins, who said the changing the purpose of the site would be a “body blow” to the area.
But the university insisted it was committed to a future in Bournville, and that a number of art and design courses would still be taught on the campus.
Coun Dawkins said: “I appreciate that the university will be remaining in Bournville, but our main objection is the fact we will no longer have a school of art where it has existed for over 100 years.
“A century of history will cease the minute it becomes anything but an art school. It’s part of Bournville heritage and the letters that people have written are a testament to how much it means to them.
‘‘We have ones from former students talking about how they have studied courses, ones from mothers saying how the school changed their children’s lives.”
The new international college will open at the Maple Road Site in the autumn and at the Linden Road site in September 2013.
It will teach foundation courses in subjects including art and design and business, with successful students qualifying to study at the main university.
The university has teamed up with Australian education company Navitas, which already operates eight colleges in the UK, for the venture and 325 students will start in October.
Coun Dawkins will be among a group handing over letters to university pro vice chancellor Sally Westney and Professor Chris O’Neil, executive dean of the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design.
Coun Dawkins said of the meeting: “There is always a hope we can change people’s minds, otherwise there is no point to having a petition.
“We want the university to know how vigorously the plans to change the school of art are opposed.
“Changing the purpose of the buildings is like if Cadbury announced they were going to manufacture cheese instead of chocolate.”
A university spokesman said: “At the meeting, university managers expect to collect a petition of signatures and will further discuss ambitious plans for art and design at the University, which includes basing provision at a £61million state-of-the-art city centre campus.
“The University also fully appreciates the proud heritage associated with Bournville.
"Therefore, as well as creating a new campus with bespoke facilities we remain committed to maintaining quality education at Bournville - and that is why we plan to open a flagship international college at the site.
As such we are investing in this historic site to safeguard the future of this campus as part of our ambitious city-wide vision to further build our reputation regionally, nationally and internationally.
We will be working with international partners Navitas, who have already opened similar colleges in London, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Swansea, Portsmouth and Plymouth – and we are delighted to open the first in Birmingham to ensure the city remains internationally competitive.”