Getting rid of Thomas More Centre is good housekeeping, not desperation

As I retire at the forthcoming AGM after 13 years service on the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute Council, I was saddened to read Katie Davies negative article, Institute is forced to sell off family jewels (H&H, June 28). I did not recognise the thr

As I retire at the forthcoming AGM after 13 years' service on the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute Council, I was saddened to read Katie Davies' negative article, "Institute is forced to sell off family jewels" (H&H, June 28).

I did not recognise the thriving institution, with its wide student-base and extensive curriculum, that I know it to be.

Yes, the institute, like all further and adult education institutions, is strapped for cash after the abrupt withdrawal of government funding from many subject areas and years of being without a permanent home and building a new one, which is now ready to go. Yes, the institute has sold off a valuable painting to offset some of its costs. Yes, the institute is selling the Thomas More Centre on East End Road and, yes, it is embarking on a fundraising programme over the next few years.

But, the institute now has its own beautiful new campus in East Finchley, bringing all classes near to each other, although currently keeping a footprint in the heart of the Suburb itself. The handsome purpose-built arts centre just off Finchley High Road, entirely paid for from Institute funds, will come on stream fully in September, with exciting and innovative classes.


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And the campus is completed by the fully-functional and excellent building leased from McDonald's next to East Finchley Station. This makes the Thomas More Centre surplus to requirements and it is good housekeeping, not a sign of desperation, to realise this asset now.

At the AGM, the principal Fay Naylor will point out that there were three inspections during the year under review, with excellent results. To keep up that level of success is remarkable and a tribute to the staff. Some of the subjects it offers are unique and some of the less able in the community find an opportunity for education that has been denied to them before.

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The institute has exciting plans for the future. For the first time in many years it has the opportunity and space to enlarge and expand classes and explore many innovative avenues for maximising the new facilities to help it break even, with benefits to students and the community alike. The institute has survived many ups and downs since its foundation by Dame Henrietta Barnett in 1909. While some other further and adult education institutions fold or merge, the HGS Institute has every intention of celebrating its own centenary in 2009 with a splash, and entering the next 100 years of its existence with optimism for the future. Incidentally, if you wish to support the institute financially through sponsorship or donation, contact Andree Koval on andree.koval@hgsi.ac.uk (020-8829 4119).

Marjorie Harris

Institute Council Member nominated by the London Borough of Barnet (1993-2007), Erskine Hill, NW11

Katie Davies' article, "Institute is forced to sell off family jewels", paints an emotive and negative picture of an institute of adult learning which is among the finest in London. I should be surprised if any comparable college showed a generous financial surplus at year end.

Heaven knows why Mr Bogush puts himself forward as an informed commentator of the institute's affairs and I wonder what is his agenda. If he is so well informed, he might have told your reporter that the institute has a highly regarded and dedicated staff to deal with a growing student base as well as a brand new purpose built arts centre. He might also have explained the government policy to withdraw financial support from adult education and also drawn your attention to additional euro legislation which hit potential income for colleges like the institute.

If he feels so concerned about the financial performance and outlook I have no doubt that the institute would welcome his personal monetary contribution towards next year's financial outcome.

Bernard Jackson

Rotherwick Road, NW11

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