Hull hath no fury like a city scorned

July 15, 2005

Lecturers fear that Lincoln University is preparing to pull out of its remaining premises in Hull amid claims by David Chiddick, the vice-chancellor, that the city is unappealing to students.

Natfhe, the lecturers' union, fears that the university is preparing to wind down and eventually abandon a campus of almost 1,000 students just a few years after dropping its "Lincolnshire and Humberside" name.

In a consultation document obtained by The Times Higher , Professor Chiddick warns that Hull lacks "attractiveness as a university city". The institution changed its name to Lincoln University in 2001 because, as a cathedral city, it smacked of history and prestige in a way that the name "Lincolnshire and Humberside" did not.

Professor Chiddick admits that the Hull campus has only half the student numbers it anticipated in its 2001 strategic plan and that it is running at a substantial financial loss.

But while he insists that he remains committed to a presence in Hull, albeit further reduced after a transfer of two departments to the local college, Natfhe predicts closures and redundancies and fears that the university is slowly abandoning the city.

In response to the consultation paper, one Natfhe member told his colleagues in a private e-mail: "Perception management is required to keep staff quiet and divided, by suggesting that some of them are safe and that the remainder may have a future at the (local) college.

"This is a ploy... the vice-chancellor has always claimed that he is committed to Hull, while at the same time using salami tactics and chopping bits off one at a time."

Lincoln has four key schools at its Hull campus - art and design, health and social care, media technologies and management development.

But a June 2005 paper from Professor Chiddick, Review of the Hull Provision , for staff and governors says the university had planned to have 2,000 full-time students on the Hull campus by 2005. There are 950.

He also blames a reduction in national demand for computing courses, saying: "It has been concluded that a minimum of 1,500 full-time undergraduates is needed in a satellite location to achieve a basic level of efficiency."

The campus will suffer further next year, he adds, when top-up fees will increase competition. Professor Chiddick estimates the campus will need 5,000 students to become "a nationally competitive university environment".

He says it would be difficult to transfer all Hull provision to Hull University, as the university "has no interest in art and design" and would seek to move health.

His "preferred option" would be to transfer "all infrastructure and staff" for art and design and media technologies to Hull College but to keep the health and social care provision as part of Lincoln University, in Hull.

But he said this would depend on support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. He told The Times Higher : "We remain committed to higher education provision in the city centre and have put before staff a number of options: the preferred one would preserve a presence for Lincoln University in Hull."

No decision had been made, he said, and the aim was to sustain and enhance provision in Hull city centre. "Throughout this consultation process, we are striving to protect jobs and we do not anticipate that teaching posts would be at risk," he added.

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