STAFFORD'S business community has branded consultations over a possible university move to Stoke "a joke".
Owners and chief executives staged an 11th hour bid to keep Staffordshire University in the town at a meeting on Tuesday.
With the deadline for a decision on whether or not to move the university to Stoke or retain a presence in Stafford six weeks away, the borough's business leaders wanted answers to how the decision would be made and what had been considered.
A review started in January and a decision will be made at the end of next month over the future of the Stafford campus, which has 2,500 students.
Mark Hattersley, the university's director of finance and infrastructure, assured business bosses from Stafford Chamber of Commerce it was not a done deal but some were not convinced.
But he said students had said they didn't want to come to Stafford.
"The big consensus that came out of student data was they didn't like this campus. It's too remote and there's no life, no vibrancy."
He said: "We are rattling around in our buildings. We don't fill them and it's unlikely in the current environment we can grow into that estate.
"One of the problems we have on this campus is its remoteness from the city centre. Some students like a nice quiet campus but the average feedback is that it's too quiet, too remote. We have got no feedback from students who want to move from Stoke. Some want to go to Stoke, some want to stay here.
"The big consensus that came out of student data was they didn't like this campus. It's too remote and there's no life, no vibrancy. I can't go against the data. It demonstrates far more students will travel from here to Stoke for the night life. Students have told us they don't want to come here."
He added current Stafford students would be unaffected but next year's intake could face a move to Stoke if they start at Stafford.
Andrew Bramhall, who co-owns Beacon business park, said: "This is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"This consultation process is a bit of a joke and I think we deserve better than that."
Karen Armitage, chief executive of Stafford and Rural Homes, said: "My concern is the decision takes no account whatsoever of the big investment coming to the town centre. The town is completely changing. Part of its attraction is that it has a hospital and a university and both are now under threat.
After the meeting Tim Jobson, president of Stafford Chamber of Commerce, said: "We are concerned it's a done deal. He assures us it isn't but it seems things have gone so far down the road. However we are hopeful the meeting will give the university positive food for thought."
Ray Barnett said: "I'm suspicious. What are they doing consulting us when it's six weeks from the decision. We called this meeting, the chamber of commerce. If the university goes it will have a hell of an impact on the night-time economy such as restaurants, bars and pubs whether students are employed there or spend their money there.
"A lot of small businesses have started up because of the university being here."