Hastings university plans criticised but college is confident

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

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

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Many including the council and the union have criticised the plans to close Hastings’ university campus but the college believes it will not be a ‘step backwards’.

University of Brighton revealed the draft proposals for a ‘university centre’ provided by Sussex Coast College last week.

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

No staff or courses would stay in the town with everything either moved to another campus or closed, but higher education programmes would be run by the college with the university acting as a validator.

Hastings Borough Council leader Peter Chowney said closing the campus would damage the town and UoB University and College Union condemned the university’s ‘betrayal’ of its commitment to Hastings.

But SCCH vice-principal Dan Shelley said the proposals would not leave Hastings without higher education provisions and saw it as an opportunity.

Sociology lecturer at Hastings campus James Ormrod said the plan to close it despite 75 per cent of the consultation recipients being against the idea ‘made a mockery’ of the university’s management.

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

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

No staff or courses would stay in the town with everything either moved to another campus or closed, but higher education programmes would be run by the college with the university acting as a validator.

Cllr Chowney said the council was disappointed by the plans to shut the campus but understood UoB’s situation that without good-quality accommodation and facilities it is difficult to make it viable.

“The closure of the campus will be damaging for local businesses, and will close down higher education opportunities for local people too,” he said.

A UoB UCU spokesman said it is not just the proposal to renege on the university’s commitment to Hastings that was concerning but also how it was managed.

Dr Ormrod believes UoB’s management has always planned to close the campus as the ‘overwhelming’ opposition shown in the consultation did not deter them.

“This is final proof that the intention was to continue with the University’s plans no matter what the consultation found,” he said.

“The UoB is a great institution with fantastic staff on the ground who are genuinely committed to widening participation and community engagement.

“Unfortunately just a few senior managers are now heading down a path that is destroying the institution and its reputation.”

Dr Ormrod also questions UoB’s faith in the independent BiGGAR report which the deputy vice-chancellor said supports the university centre proposal.

The lecturer said the report has concerns for the longevity of the university centre if SCCH cannot find other validating institutions.

“There is no immediate prospect of this happening and so what should be taken from the report is a very serious warning about the impact of the campus closure on local higher education opportunities,” Dr Ormrod said.

Mr Shelley said SCCH will maintain higher education in Hastings in consultation with the public to support economic development and increase its accessibility.

“The proposed plans for the UoB Hastings campus, that were released last week, raised a number of concerns but we want to assure local people and stakeholders that quality higher education will not be lost in Hastings, and that we will work with everyone to support and grow higher education in the town.

“Many people do not realise that we have been running UoB-validated higher education courses at the college very successfully for 25 years.

“We want to build on this history of running degree-level courses offering the local and wider community easy access and opportunities to study.

“We will do this in consultation with key stakeholders and local people to ensure that we get the right mix of provision to support economic development and widen access to higher level studies for local residents.”

He added: “It certainly is not a step backwards as the thousands of students who have studied at degree level here have found out; it is a springboard into your chosen career.”

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