Plans revealed for new Hastings ‘university centre’

University of Brighton, Priory Square, Hastings. SUS-160127-130344001
University of Brighton, Priory Square, Hastings. SUS-160127-130344001

No university staff or courses would stay in Hastings according to plans for the new ‘university centre’ released this afternoon (Thursday, November 24).

A paper to be considered by University of Brighton’s academic board details the ambition to continue higher education provisions in the town with courses delivered by Sussex Coast College Hastings.

Protest against the closure of University of Brighton's Hastings campus in May. SUS-160514-140759001

Protest against the closure of University of Brighton's Hastings campus in May. SUS-160514-140759001

The plans come after a three-month public consultation which ended at the end of October and discussions between the university and the college.

SCCH would deliver all courses with the university providing ‘robust’ validation, but no staff or current courses would transfer to the college – courses would either move to another UoB campus or close.

UoB deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Pole said: “We have released these details now as we feel it is important to have transparency around the final stages of the decision-making process.

“Our recent consultation told us how important it is for people to see higher education continue to be provided in Hastings and for the new university centre to have its own specific presence and identity.

“However, our original proposal for a standalone university centre in its own building is not deliverable in the short-term.

“These revised proposals provide Sussex Coast College Hastings with the necessary flexibility to manage the sustainable development of the university centre, its course portfolio and student numbers.”

The initial announcement the campus would close was met with outrage from students, staff, the council and the community.

Campaigners criticised UoB for not consulting stakeholders, which sparked the consultation, but university management were slammed for a lack of transparency.

The paper says:

• The ambition to develop a new university centre in Hastings ‘remains the best option for the continuing delivery of higher education in the town’

• This should be delivered via a portfolio of courses delivered by SCCH supported by robust validation arrangements with the UoB and subject to all of its formal quality assurance processes including oversight of academic standards, academic appointments and examination boards

• SCCH would be responsible for the provision of all aspects of course delivery, marketing and student support

• Decisions on the initial size, location and future development of the new university centre will be for the corporation of SCCH to determine

• No staff or current courses at the Hastings campus would transfer to the new university centre, with courses either transferring to other UoB campuses or closing

• The Hastings campus would continue to operate until 2019 with all current students able to complete their studies

• The new university centre would be launched in January 2017 with new provision offered by SCCH ready for students to enrol for the 2017/18 academic year

The proposals are still subject to final approval by the corporation of SCCH and board of governors of the UoB.

A formal written response was received from Hastings Borough Council announcing they will support the development of the university centre if that is the option pursued.

After the consultation, an independent report commissioned from BiGGAR Economics by the Hastings & Rother Local Strategic Partnership fully validated the UoB’s rationale and analysis for closing the Hastings Campus.

It highlighted the scale of the challenge in attracting sufficient numbers of students to study in the town, and confirmed the university centre model is currently the best available option to guarantee continued higher education provision in Hastings.

SCCH principal Clive Cooke said: “We know how much people care about the continuing provision of higher education in Hastings.

“We know that they will now get behind the development of our new university centre and help us design a curriculum that best meets the needs of local people in Hastings, Rother and East Sussex in a sustainable way.

“I am confident that, if approved, the new university centre will be delivered successfully and I am really looking forward to working further with local partners and businesses to ensure that it develops a range of courses that help to drive the continuing economic regeneration of Hastings, Rother and East Sussex.”

There were a total of 221 responses to the public consultation, with around 90 staff, students and local stakeholders taking part in a series of facilitated discussion groups.

The continued provision of higher education in Hastings is of ‘huge importance’ to the town and its continuing development, according to respondents.

But there were concerns about job losses, the impact on the local economy and SCCH’s capacity to provide higher education.

The final report from the public consultation can be found here.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage at www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/

2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hastingsobserver

3) Follow us on Twitter @HastingsObs

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

The Hastings Observer - always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.