Many people will be shocked and saddened by the announcement made last week about the University’s proposal to consolidate its estate in Brighton and pull out of Eastbourne. It doesn’t feel that long ago since Hastings was closed, but Eastbourne has much deeper and historic roots and many Eastbourne staff have given decades of service to the University.
It has often been rumoured that UEB could take such a course of action and the leadership of the University have actively considered this on and off for many years. The explanation over the proposal is a masterclass in positive spin, dressing the plan up as a positive next step, as if abandoning a significant chunk of the University and causing the “loss” of a number of jobs is a step forward in the University of Brighton’s evolution.
The proposals are very light on detail about the financial situation, which is no doubt much of the driver for this. The land and buildings at Eastbourne will generate one-off funding if they can be sold, but this is about a contraction of the University brought on by a failure to recruit in significant numbers when in competition with other institutions. Future estimates of the impact of the Augar review into higher education funding will no doubt be bleak and UEB are probably preparing for some of the worst case scenarios, which may well turn out to be correct guesses – a drop in the value of the tuition fee combined with minimum entry qualifications.
Closure of the Eastbourne campus would be a tragic end to decades of higher education provision in the town and it’s a tragic situation that the market system of higher education recruitment and funding does force university managers to make decisions which are not beneficial to the sector, students or the local community. Just like in Hastings, Eastbourne residents will feel let down by this.
This drastic step is a gamble, designed to future-proof the University against the next government attack on higher education delivered by post-92 institutions. There is no guarantee it will work of course.
We will engage with the consultation process and discuss with our members the best course of action. Obviously our main concern is to defend the jobs of members and oppose any compulsory redundancies.