University has ‘moral obligation’ to pay back £12m

Protest outside Brighton University in Hastings. SUS-160903-134329001

Protest outside Brighton University in Hastings. SUS-160903-134329001

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Members of the University and College Union have been told the University of Brighton ‘intends to close’ the Hastings campus.

Following an earlier statement, in which the union said the future was unclear members were sent an email from Mark Abel, chairman of the University of Brighton UCU coordinating committee.

It describes the vice chancellor’s statement as ‘less than frank’ about the decision taken.

“In reality, the university intends to close the Hastings campus,” said Mr Abel in his message.

“This would be a phased operation over the next two years, resulting in complete withdrawal by 2018.

“There is an attempt to obscure this fact and placate the local opposition to the university’s withdrawal by referring to elements of Brighton University validated degree provision which will continue to be delivered by South Coast College Hastings.”

Based on a briefing provided to unions by the deputy vice chancellor today, Mr Abel said existing courses would be dealt with in varying ways.

“Some will move this year to another site of the university,” he wrote.

“Others would continue to recruit cohorts for the coming academic year but will move to another site in September, 2018, for the students’ final year.

“There is a proposal to transfer some courses to South Coast FE College to join those UoB-validated degree programmes already offered by the college.

“Some courses would close.”

He said the changes would ‘inevitably mean redundancies’.

“It is likely to be administrative, technical and professional staff that are most at risk of losing their jobs.

“Depending on what happens to each of the courses, the best outcome for academic staff would be a transfer to Eastbourne or Brighton.

“It is not clear whether lecturers associated with courses which transfer to the FE College would transfer with them but even if that were the case it would inevitably involve staff being forced from the HE salary scale and University of Brighton terms and conditions of employment to the far inferior ones that prevail in FE.

“In addition, it is clear that some academic staff are at risk of redundancy.”

He said the ‘net result’ was the university no longer having an operation in Hastings.

“The commitment to participate in the social and cultural regeneration of the town has been abandoned,” he added.

“The university claims it is not legally obliged to repay any of the £12m in public subsidy that it accepted 13 years ago, and therefore does not intend to do so.

“The UCU remains committed to fighting to retain the Hastings Campus.

“We oppose the turn towards a corporate university that this decisions represents and believe that the decision to withdraw represents a betrayal of the commitments the university entered into with its civic partners in the town.

“The university itself recognises that its operation is unlikely to be replaced by anything comparable in terms of its economic and cultural contribution, and that in the current climate the buildings may not even be saleable.

“The University of Brighton has a proud tradition of not making academic staff redundant.

“The UCU will be seeking a guarantee that record is maintained.

“Our branches have already passed motions committing the union to fight redundancies by all means at our disposal, up to and including industrial action.

“The possibility that university staff will be transferred to an FE college on worsened employment conditions represents a potential threat for all of us which we will also oppose.

“We stand in solidarity with Unison in opposing redundancies of non-academic staff, many of whom will have little opportunity of equivalent alternative employment locally.

“We also believe that the university has a moral obligation to tax payers and the people of Hastings to pay back the regeneration money it accepted if it is now turning its back on the town.”

He said the management board would present the decision as ‘final and irrevocable’.

“In fact it is nothing of the sort.

“Many of the details have not been worked out and much can change in two years.

“The scale of the opposition that the unions are able to mount can still play a role in shaping the outcome.

“We will be organising branch meetings in the coming days to flesh out a campaign.”

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