Trustees step down in row over planned city dental academy
De Montfort University representatives have resigned from the board of the Phoenix cinema after raising concerns about its plans to host a dental academy.
The university's two members on the board of trustees running the city arts venue have stepped down, it has emerged.
The publicly-funded Phoenix is set to become the base for Leicester Dental Teaching Academy (LDTA), which intends to open in September and is now recruiting students for the £176,000, five-year course.
However, confidential minutes of Phoenix board meetings passed to the Mercury show the university's members raised "concerns and issues" about the proposed dental academy in November.
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The board minutes say the university trustees referred to what they called the academy's "unacceptably high fees" and pointed out De Montfort University (DMU), the University of Leicester and Warwick University had all declined to be involved in the project before it was accredited by the University of Buckingham.
The minutes also say the university may not wish its brand to be linked to the academy through its involvement with Phoenix.
The De Montfort trustees also said: "There is a risk for DMU and UL (University of Leicester) that the recruitment of international students will be adversely affected in the event that LDTA has a negative impact on the reputation of Leicester."
The Mercury has previously reported that, initially, students would have lectures and seminars at the Phoenix, Curve and nearby LCB Depot.
The £6 million dental clinic is proposed subject to planning approval, but yesterday the city council said no planning application had been submitted.
If approved, the centre would include specialist suites and extra teaching and administrative space. It is due to be up-and-running for the start of the autumn 2015 academic year.
In the board minutes, the university trustees point out there is no guarantee the dental academy will be granted planning permission.
They raise concerns that students could be taught in the Phoenix from September and that the LDTA building might not even be started.
The trustees add they are concerned students may not be able to pursue their studies if the building is delayed or not built. The minutes say "this is unacceptable".
De Montfort University, which provided £750,000 towards the £21.5 million cost of the building when it opened in 2009, confirmed its trustees had resigned.
It said it did not wish to comment on the reasons for the resignation but confirmed it had no intention of removing the £20,000 a year it gives to the Phoenix as part of its ongoing partnership deal.
Phoenix chief executive John Rance said he was disappointed that papers "clearly not designed for public release" were given to the Mercury but stressed it was an "open organisation".
He said: "Two Phoenix trustees resigned in January and we have held discussions with DMU. We value the relationship with DMU enormously.
"We anticipate that the LDTA opportunity will produce a significant new income stream for Phoenix that will support our long-term future."
Phoenix said the teaching programme would not affect cinema scheduling, but could limit the conference space available to others.
In the minutes, Mr Rance said: "Provision of space would not affect the Phoenix cultural programme as morning sessions are proposed when the cinemas are not used."
The minutes to the board meeting say Phoenix is set to be paid £500,000 over the first five years by LDTA for hiring the venue.
The Mercury contacted the University of Buckingham, which said it did not wish to comment on the matter.
It said we should contact LDTA registrar Atul Patel, but he was unavailable.