The chief of Hull University has defiantly said it will not abandon Scarborough campus – but admits that it will be home to something different from 2017.
In an exclusive interview with The Scarborough News, Professor Calie Pistorius said the university will not ditch Scarborough, after claims that there were secret plans to “wind down” the campus.
However, he admits factors such as dwindling student numbers have forced the institution to look at turning the site into another academic facility – but he still doesn’t know what that will be.
“We will not abandon the campus or abandon Scarborough,” said the vice-chancellor.
“We have been here a long time and the university remains committed to Scarborough.”
But those graduating in the summer of 2017 will probably be the last university students on the campus.
And there are still question marks over both the future of certain degrees on the site, as well as staff.
From the next academic year, the English course offered on the campus will be moved to Hull, after the university suspended applications at the campus.
And with student numbers on the campus falling 30 per cent to around 1,400 over the past two years, the professor added: “The university needs to look now at declining numbers and consider which programmes should we offer in 2015.” He said programmes that are deemed “not viable” on Scarborough’s campus could also be moved to Hull where they are already offered in some form.
He added that the 200 full-time-equivalent staff are a “priority”, but added that until there are concrete plans over the future beyond 2017, then their future is still largely uncertain.
“You can’t sort out the details until you see what tomorrow brings,” said the vice-chancellor.
“We will enter into negotiations, but we don’t know what the model is yet and that’s going to be ‘x’ years down the line.”
What that model is, university chiefs still don’t know.
One possibility that has been floated is to turn it into a University Technical College (UTC), but the professor said there has “never been talk” of that.
However, he added: “What we said is that the university would be delighted if the borough council and local businesses were interested in exploring a UTC and to work with them to explore that somewhere in Scarborough.”
Whatever replaces the university would, in his words, be a “vibrant” and “Scarborough-centric” higher education institution.
He added that whatever the plans are, the university wants to begin work on them “sooner rather than later”.
After the news broke, students and local businesses expressed concerns.
Professor Ian Pashby said that while the university empathised with the community, the reason it was exploring new options was to try to safeguard the future of Scarborough.
“I think what we are doing is a positive thing,” he said.
“There were 2,000 people two years ago, now there’s only 1,400 – we have to do something to turn that round.
“The pubs, the cafes and the taxi owners, they will already be feeling it.
“The application numbers are down again, so we have to be pro-active and turn it around and make sure there are a significant number of people in the town to make it worthwhile for these businesses.”
Current students and those starting in September have been assured they can see out their degrees in Scarborough.
Student Union vice-president Tom Swainson said pupils felt “in limbo” last week, but that communication has calmed nerves.
He added: “It’s upsetting as the campus may not exist how I remember it, but it’s important that future students experience something that’s just as exciting.”
Now plans turn to looking at a future solution for the site, and Professor Pistorius added: “It’s a very exciting opportunity.
“It’s going to be different but it’s going to be fantastic.”