Does every university need a bookshop? Should universities encourage booksellers to locate their enterprises on the campus?
These are the questions raised by the sudden closure of Blackwell's bookshop at Sheffield Hallam University. Eleven employees will be made redundant.
At its most recent meeting, the student assembly was uncertain about the necessity of a bookshop to support people's studies. The need varied from course to course. Those students following the arts, humanities and social sciences were in favour; those in science, technology and business studies were less enthusiastic.
Although the sample was small, in part because of lack of information about the closure and a low level of student activity at Sheffield Hallam, the general feeling was that a bookshop enhances the image and approachability of a university, particularly to the general public.
Blackwell's at Hallam is based in university premises, opposite the city's new Millennium Gallery and in the heart of its Cultural Quarter. The university, it has been claimed, charged an annual rent of £106,000 for this prime site. Sales did not match costs and the shop became unprofitable.
A petition-based protest campaign to keep the shop open has received wide support. The two parties involved are now disputing the actual site costs. While the financial situation is being clarified, students and staff at Sheffield Hallam face a Christmas with an empty bookshop on their doorstep.
Nick Howard, Postgraduate student on the MA writing course, Sheffield Hallam University