Soton bid to rescue Athens campus

August 9, 1996

Southampton Institute is gearing up for a costly recruitment drive in a last-ditch attempt to save its loss-making Athens campus.

Only a fivefold increase in student numbers will ensure that its Southampton Solent Campus has any hope of surviving another year. If the students do not sign up, Southampton Institute will have little option but to close the campus, a move which could push total losses to around Pounds 500,000.

Southampton Solent Campus, which is not recognised as an educational organisation by the Greek government, has this year attracted just 26 students, well short of the 100 students expected to enrol on its full-time and part-time courses. But according to a confidential report seen by The THES the campus will have to recruit 130 students next year to break even.

The report, prepared for governors by Chris Hutchinson, the director of corporate development suspended by the institute on full pay last month following concern about the institute's overseas franchise operations, attributes the "disappointing" intake to the failure of the advertising campaign. To avoid the same mistake, the campus has recently featured in four higher education fairs around Greece. Six open days are planned for September, the main recruitment period, and a newspaper advertising campaign will be complemented by leaflet distribution, direct mailings, and targeting of corporate and professional bodies.

Professor Hutchinson warns that even though the potential market comprises 30,000 students, "there is no guarantee at this stage that the campus has yet established a strong enough reputation to achieve" the break-even figure of 130. But the financial consequences of failure are dire. Southampton Institute has already admitted that its Athens campus has made losses of Pounds 253,000. To keep it registered as a Greek company, the institute will have to raise the share capital from Pounds 8,000 to at least 50 per cent of accumulated losses, Pounds 125,000.

The alternative, closing down the campus, would not be a cost-free option. Last November, the cost of withdrawal was calculated at Pounds 50,000. By June this year, the cost had risen to Pounds 82,000.

Another problem would be providing for students enrolled on unfinished two-year courses like the MBA. Professor Hutchinson said that any student given reasonable expectation that the course would continue after completion of the first year would, if the campus were aborted, have a case for breach of contract.

The institute confirmed that it had launched an advertising campaign but refused to reveal the cost because it was "commercially sensitive".

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