Dear Vice Chancellor,
This communication from the Psychotherapists and Counsellors Union (PCU) is in response to the recent announcements concerning the future of the person-centred counselling courses at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
We consider the move to close these courses to be unacceptable, given that the decision appears to have been taken with negligible consultation and without consideration of the need for highly skilled and well qualified counsellors and psychotherapists, both locally to Norwich, in the region and in the UK. The loss of volunteer counsellors working locally as part of their training is also significant and will place the NHS under even greater pressure.
We are also concerned about the impact on existing students and staff and we note that there will be a deleterious impact on your University’s own counselling service.
According to information received, it seems that students will now not be able to progress in the way in which they had expected. If students who gain the certificate in counselling may not proceed to the diploma in the way they had been promised, then this is damaging to their careers and professional development. We also have concerns about the finishing period of the existing diploma students.
We are not sure how this high-handedness can be justified either on human or on academic grounds. Is it not unethical?
We think that wider communication about this closure is important because the public is at stake and hence we hope there have been no attempts to stifle discussion - because these would be badly received.
We believe your decisions were based on poor information and a lack of understanding of the ways in which the overall field of the psychological therapies is developing. In-depth therapy work is generally agreed, on the basis of research, to be both effective in terms of alleviating mental and emotional distress, and also to be what clients and patients find beneficial and suited to their needs.
If UEA believes that its remaining trainings in psychological therapies predicated on the needs of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies scheme are in any way a replacement for what is now being lost, then this is a most unfortunate error. It will be perceived as such across the professions of counselling and psychotherapy.
Not only this, but the decision seems to have been made without consideration of the very high national and international standing that UEA holds in the field. For twenty five years UEA has been synonymous with person-centred therapy. The loss of a training programme of this quality and of its potential for University based research not only affects colleagues and students at UEA but all of us in the profession.
The person-centred course at UEA was one very significant way that the University was nationally known outside of Norwich and these closures are a retrograde step.
We request that these decisions be reconsidered, an appropriate consultative process be established, and that you will agree to a meeting with this Union which is most definitely a stakeholder in the matter.
We look forward to the swift receipt of your response to this communication and we would appreciate acknowledgement of its receipt.
Richard Bagnall-Oakley (Chair, PCU)
Professor Andrew Samuels (Academic Adviser, PCU and Former Chair United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy
Note: This e-mail has been copied to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Universities and Colleges Union, MPs and local authorities.