Soton students are thrown a lifeline

October 11, 1996

Portsmouth University is to bail out Southampton Institute of Higher Education by taking on MBA students cast adrift by its decision last week to close the loss-making specialist maritime campus in Athens after just one year, writes Simon Targett.

The rescue package, which Portsmouth agreed after being approached by the institute, means that the institute will not face a costly round of litigation from aggrieved students.

But the price of closing the Athens-based Southampton Solent Campus, which has already made losses of Pounds 253,000, could run to an additional Pounds 100,000. Earlier this year, Chris Hutchinson, then director of corporate development, said in a confidential document that the cost of closure was climbing fast, from Pounds 50,000 last November to Pounds 82,000 this June.

The decision to close the Athens campus was taken after the institute's recruiters failed to attract enough new students. Only 30 signed up for a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, instead of the estimated 60 needed to keep the campus afloat.

David Leyland, the institute's director, blamed "intolerable media misrepresentation". The institute is embroiled in legal action over reports in The Observer and the Southampton Evening Echo. Professor Leyland said: "It is clear that any chance of meeting targets has been made impossible by adverse press reporting and this has necessitated that we minimise further expenditure."

The MBA students will transfer to Korelco School, an Athens-based college that has run courses validated by Portsmouth since 1991. An institute spokesperson said the 30 students recruited this year were only offered places "subject to viable numbers being recruited" and they will be placed in "a number of other institutions in Greece".

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