On Tuesday the University of Brighton released a statement about the future of it’s Hastings campus. In the vaguely worded message they spoke about how they would continue to “support the delivery of higher education in Hastings through an evolution of its current provision in the town”. In plain english, Brighton intend to back out of the project in the next two years, reverting the campus back to a University Centre run by the local college. This was finally clarified in an email to alumni today.
I studied at University Centre Hastings, as it was previously called, many years ago and while I had a great experience it always felt like the long term goal was for Hastings to become equal with the other four campuses in Brighton and Eastbourne. This goal finally seemed to have been achieved in 2013 with the opening of the Priory Square building and the official adoption as a fifth campus of Brighton. This week's announcement is a complete step in the wrong direction and a sign that Brighton simply want a quick exit from the town.
The University has apparently made this decision on financial grounds, however in a meeting with Hastings students when Vice-Chancellor Professor Debra Humphris ridiculously generous salary was brought up, she made an immediate departure. The University also claims that the decision was made due to a forecasted decline in 16-17 year olds in the local area, completely ignoring the large population of mature students the campus attracts. Even if this is true and numbers will decline, an institution of this size should brave the storm and come out the other side, not return home at the first sign of rain.
The excuse that low student numbers are to blame is also complete nonsense when you consider the fact that the University controls how their student population is distributed. Instead they have moved many courses away from Hastings and failed to build student halls close by and then pointed at low numbers as the reason for the closure.
As someone who has studied at the campus, owes his job to it, and has friends who both work and study there, it deeply saddens me to see Brighton abandoning our town when things were just getting better. The Hastings campus is uniquely positioned to support single parents and mature students who simply can’t travel two hours to Brighton due to other commitments in their life. Pulling support now is simply abandoning us.
It might not mean very much, but there is a petition you can sign to show your support for the Hastings campus. The least we can do is let our voices be heard.