STUDENTS have reacted furiously to claims by Staffordshire University bosses they “do not like” the Stafford campus.
Nearly a thousand students took to social media sites to say they had not been consulted about a possible move to Stoke.
The university also said they had consulted with businesses but the leader of Stafford’s business community said there had been no dialogue with them until a last-ditch meeting last week which was requested by Stafford Chamber of Commerce.
In a letter to the Newsletter this week Mark Hattersley, the university’s director of finance and infrastructure, said: “The meeting was part of the university’s on-going consultation on the estates strategy and was similar to a meeting held in October for the membership of the chamber in Stoke.
“During the 12-month consultation period we have consulted widely with staff, students, schools and colleges, local authorities, MPs and politicians, business organisations including chambers in Stafford and Stoke, employers and the Stafford Landlords Association. It is important that we take on board the views of as many Staffordshire stakeholders as possible in considering the future of the university and its estate.”
Chamber president Tim Jobson said he welcomed last week’s meeting and said he hoped university chiefs would take the concerns of business people on board when they make their decision next month (JAN).
He said: “However I think all the business representatives at the meeting were taken aback at much of what was said.
“The Newsletter picked up on the specific comment about students not liking the Stafford campus and this has sparked a furious debate which can only be good for the consultation process.
“I am very pleased that there is now real dialogue because during the first 11 and a half months of the 12 month consultation that Mark Hattersley refers to, there was no dialogue with the business community.”
Jane Grattan, the chamber’s policy manager, said: “The University’s provision at the Stafford Campus is of tremendous importance to the business community and the wider Stafford economy.”
The directors of Beacon Business Park said: “Although marketing of Beacon Business Park has only just commenced, we are already receiving interest from overseas companies who see the attractions of the area. The closure of the university will put the county town at a significant disadvantage in its ability to attract employers offering high-skilled jobs. Where is the joined up thinking and long term strategy.”
In an open letter Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy said it was vital the university kept its roots in the county town.
He said: “Staffordshire University benefits from having two locations as many other universities around the country do.
“Its local profile is enhanced across a wider area and this undoubtedly helps to attract more students. It would seem strange if a university which is rightly focussed on international partnerships was unable to operate across a number of sites within its own county.”
A Facebook page called The Student Voice – Save Stafford Campus was set up after the Newsletter’s report last week and has nearly 1,000 likes.
Administrators said: “The plan is to get a big enough following to show the uni heads that we students do like and care about Stafford.”
The page has been deluged with comments since its inception and has led to the launch of a Twitter account @WeLoveStafford which features an online petition which had 250 signatures yesterday.
Former student Lily Fox said: “Stafford campus was fantastic to me, an inspiring and practical place in a beautiful region close to my favourite little old town in the world.”
Benjamin Gray said: “One of the reasons I chose this university was because of its location close to my home city of Birmingham but so much quieter with a mostly friendly population and everything a student would need within reasonable walking distance.”