Swansea goes under hammer

March 5, 2004

Swansea University students who put the institution up for sale on eBay were stunned when bids broke all records, reaching nearly $100 million (£55 million) in one day.

Student union welfare and education officer Hannah Quinn placed an advertisement to sell the university on the internet auction site on Monday as a publicity stunt supporting protests against plans to close five departments.

The advertisement promised potential buyers "stunning sea views, beautiful listed buildings, and top academic departments".

The bidding started at just $2, crept up to just over $100 by lunchtime, and then skyrocketed to the highest possible bid of $99,999,999 by 5pm.

Ms Quinn said: "We were shocked and a bit worried. The most expensive thing ever sold on eBay was a Gulfstream jet for $4.9 million." Luckily the anonymous final bidder, username niamhryan, failed to pay up, and eBay withdrew the university from auction. It sent Ms Quinn a stern email, stating: "The item you have listed does not appear to be consistent with eBay guidelines. EBay does not allow listings that are intended as jokes or which feature items that are not for sale."

Ms Quinn said the prank was dreamt up as a way to draw attention to Swansea students' anger over proposals to phase out sociology, anthropology, development studies, chemistry and philosophy as part of a restructuring plan.

"We were trying to make the point that the plans seem to put commercialism before education concerns," she said.

Richard Davies, Swansea vice-chancellor, has come under fire from academic union leaders and students for pressing ahead with the plans. But he took the eBay auction in good humour.

He said: "We have been encouraging entrepreneurialism in our students for some time, but I am surprised it has gone this far."

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