County council’s concerns at University of Brighton’s plans to shut Eastbourne campus
The University of Brighton’s plans to completely pull out of Eastbourne will have a negative impact on East Sussex’s learning and local economy, according to county council officers.
The university, which operates out of three sites across the town – Hillbrow, which includes the sports centre, Darley Road and Leaf Hospital – aims to have left the town entirely by the start of the 2024/2025 academic year.
A consultation on its Prospectus for Change, which looks at its estate planning over the next four years, is set to close on Friday December 10.
East Sussex County Council’s response is set to be discussed by its lead member for economy next Tuesday (December 7).
Officers suggest the prospectus does not acknowledge the withdrawal of Higher Education (HE) provision from Hastings in 2019, nor does it make proposals for how and what HE offer will be delivered in East Sussex after 2024.
They go on to describe how the move seems contrary to national strategies and policies such as the Levelling Up fund, the Interim NHS People Plan, the health in coastal communities report as well as the recommendations for higher level learning provision outlined in the South East LEP Skills Strategy.
Their report points out that youth unemployment remains high and withdrawing the Eastbourne campus ‘seems counterintuitive to the university’s commitment to support recovery’.
It also notes significant recruitment shortages in the county’s health and social care sector among frontline care staff, nursing and allied professionals.
The county council would have hoped to see an expansion in this sector’s training provision in East Sussex rather than the removal of it.
The university is also acknowledged as a positive contributor to the sport, fitness and health sector in Eastbourne and the loss of these facilities ‘will reduce options to residents’.
There are also concerns the proposals would halt the momentum of efforts to increase the proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds in HE, as travelling to learn would prove an ‘insurmountable barrier’ for both them and disabled students.
The Eastbourne campus also offers employment opportunities for teaching staff and attracts students into the area.
The loss of the campus ‘will potentially mean a loss of local employment opportunities for residents and income for the local economy’, officers added.
They concluded: “The proposals in the Brighton University ‘Prospectus for Change’ will have a negative impact on learning in East Sussex. It will have a detrimental impact on the local economy in terms of jobs, spend, post-pandemic recovery, and most significantly will remove Higher Education provision from the county.
“At a time when the health sector has recruitment shortages and when there are cohorts of potential learners across the county, particularly to the East, who are ready to enter the sector, removing allied professional health courses and sports science courses will have a detrimental effect on our NHS, care, sport, health, and fitness sectors locally and on our important leisure infrastructure.”
To take part in the consultation, visit www.brighton.ac.uk/practical-wisdom/proposal.aspx