Our members will have seen the announcement that the University intends to close Phoenix Nursery, explained as a consolidation of nursery provision at One World Nursery in Moulsecoomb.
This is a case of history repeating itself, since the same proposal was made almost exactly ten years ago. Thanks to a campaign involving nursery staff, students, the children themselves, the UNISON branch and the wider community, the nursery was then saved from closure, as the Board of Governors at the time recognised the value of what it did.
Yes, the nursery costs money and more is spent on it than it generates in income. This is the case with virtually every aspect of the University’s central operations, including the fitness facilities and the Eastbourne swimming pool, the multiple libraries and student social spaces and a large proportion of the research and consultancy projects that the University is happy to support.
It would be laughable to suggest that the libraries should be funded by fines for overdue books, so why do we need to apply this principle to a part of the nursery provision? We’re told it’s an “inappropriate use of University resources.” Has anyone asked the staff, students or users of the childcare? Our members would be happy provide a list of the things which we consider to be an inappropriate use of University resources.
The suggestion “that the University remains committed to supporting parents who work and study with us” is the kind of statement a company would put out when the level of commitment is clearly being reduced. There’s no suggestion that the money saved is to be used to enhance welfare provision elsewhere. Based on information we’ve seen, this saving will amount to roughly £90,000 a year, not a huge amount of money in the great scheme of things given the service it provides and for a university with a turnover in excess of £200 million.
We described the closure of Hastings campus as an act of educational vandalism. This is an act of student and community welfare vandalism which makes a nonsense of all the University’s boasts about links with the people of Brighton and being part of the city’s vibrant life. This closure will cause further damage to the University’s reputation.
Yes, the number of staff and students using the Nursery are small, but they exist and the case for closing the Nursery should not be made on a financial basis alone, especially bearing in mind the links to the local community.
The Nursery is consistently rated “outstanding” by Ofsted and the links between the provision of quality childcare and educational good practice taught at Falmer are clear. These links were the justification for the University falling over itself to throw University resources at the Academies Trust. This would have been on our list of inappropriate uses of resources. Again, no staff or students were ever consulted over this.
Does anyone really think that closure makes sense? Well UEB apparently do. A body costing upwards of £1.2 million, about thirteen times the cost of Phoenix Nursery.
Time for an urgent re-think.