Sussex University is to scrap part-time courses for adult learners in the community.
The decision to close the Centre for Community Engagement (CCE) was discussed by the university’s court – it’s main representative body – on Friday (23 March).
Most courses will end in June, with students and staff claiming that the centre had been run down for years in preparation for closure.
The move is expected to lead to more than a dozen job losses among academic staff with many more part-time tutors affected.
The University and College Union (UCU) said: “The management’s proposal will deprive local adult students, especially older and second chance learners, of opportunities not otherwise available to them.”
The union said that the closure “does not reflect the university management’s often-stated commitments to community engagement, widening participation and learning opportunities outside traditional hours and locations”.
One student said that the department had been systematically stripped of its accredited courses over the past five or six years.
The student said that the number of courses had been reduced over the same period as the department was wound down.
The same student said that consultation with staff and students had been inadequate and suggested that there were sensible solutions that had been ignored, adding: “This decision has angered many within the educational community, especially considering that CCE standards are extremely high. There is no dumbing down of degrees there.
“The general public will not want to continue to pay taxes to a money-making establishment that puts profit before education and bars the local population from attending as part-time students.”
The UCU said: “Continuing education and community engagement have a long and illustrious history at Sussex as recognised in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the university.
“Recently CCE has produced novellists, both amateur and professional archaeologists, supported community volunteering, put on public events, engaged with efforts to promote sign language in support of deaf communities, and engaged with teachers and young people through Creative Partnerships schemes.
“It has also provided full-time and visiting students with access to disciplines such as archaeology that are not otherwise covered by mainstream departments.
“CCE has led the way at Sussex in terms of widening participation among non school leavers, such as ethnic and minority groups, refugees, disabled people, people from socially deprived areas and deaf communities.
“This has been achieved during the last 18 years by a range of European funding which continues to the present.
“The centre is within the successful and expanding School of Business, Management and Economics (BMEc).
“Schools are budget units at Sussex and cross-subsidise provisions within their areas.
“BMEc’s income could be used to maintain activities in CCE.
“BMEc is financially very healthy and accepts the principle of intra-unit cross-subsidy yet this possibility is not being allowed by management.
“In addition, CCE runs the very successful International Summer School (ISS) whose significant profits could be used to help maintain CCE courses and staff.”
The UCU said that 15 academic and academic-related staff, 3 professional support staff and 127 associate tutors were at risk.
Another student said: “The university is happy to take top dollar from overseas students while cutting off an important avenue to higher education for people living locally.”
The student added: “No one is allowed to post anything about this on the official university website which makes me wonder about the wider approach to freedom of speech and academic freedom here.
“This is a worrying development and reminiscent of the ill-advised move to stop offering chemistry a few years back which resulted in Parliament quite properly kicking up a fuss.
“Once again it looks as though the university appears to be putting profit before education.”
On Friday the university said that it was unable to comment on the matter which was still only a proposal.