Plymouth under fire as campus faces closure

November 18, 2005

Academics and students have criticised Plymouth University's decision to close its Exmouth campus despite strong objections raised during a lengthy consultation.

The university said it was expected that up to 1,100 students and 200 staff would move the 96km from Exmouth to Plymouth.

Governors who met last week ratified the decision to relocate the university's Exmouth-based faculty of education to Plymouth in September 2008.

In a statement, they say the move will allow the faculty to be integrated with the rest of the university, provide students with better facilities and resources, and save £500,000 a year in operating and maintenance costs.

But academic union leaders, who have called for the decision to be reversed, warned that a "substantial minority" of academic staff and a majority of support staff have indicated that they would leave the university if the move went ahead.

A paper jointly submitted by the Association of University Teachers, Natfhe, Unison and GMB says: "There is a strong possibility that the most experienced staff would retire and that research-active and innovative staff would seek alternative employment.

Roland Levinsky, Plymouth vice-chancellor, said no staff members would lose their jobs through the relocation and there was no evidence to suggest that many would decide to leave. "We will do everything we can to facilitate staff and students during the move," he said.

The union paper argues that the move could endanger successful partnerships with schools in the region, watering down the quality of the faculty's provision.

Students at the university joined staff unions in arguing that the kind of students recruited to Exmouth would not wish to live and study in Plymouth.

Moreover, a report for the university indicates that the move will cost the local economy more than £5 million a year.

Katie Shaw, student union president of the Exmouth campus, said: "The decision has left the student community heart-broken. It's outrageous that the university has taken this decision with blatant disregard for the view of students, staff and local residents."

Sir Brian Pearse, chair of governors at Plymouth, said: "While there are undoubtedly risks involved in the relocation, these are manageable and have to be considered in the light of the considerable range of opportunities that could be generated by the move."

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