EDUCATION bosses last night greenlit plans to close Stafford's university campus and relocate to Stoke on Trent.
The decision, which will see the Beaconside campus vacated by 2016 and all but the NHS commissioned health courses moved to Staffordshire University's locations in Stoke, was made last night at a special meeting of the institutions board of governors.
Staffordshire University vice-chancellor Michael Gunn said: “It makes economic sense and will enable us to give our students the best possible student experience.
"Competition in the University sector has never been higher and we need to put ourselves in the best possible position to attract students to our excellent courses.”
He said the decision followed a considerable amount of work to understand how the university's estate - currently divided between Stafford and Stoke on Trent - was used .
That included a period of consultation with staff, students, education and local authority partners and the business community as well as an audit of the university's teaching accommodation which determined the average room use was lower than comparative universities.
"We have consulted widely with staff and local stakeholders," he said. "We have consulted students and investigated what it is they want from a University education.
"What we know is that students generally show a preference for an edge of city campus with brilliant learning and teaching facilities, good public transport links and social activities – all of which we have in Stoke-on-Trent.”
The university will now begin a 'masterplanning phase' to determine timescales for the move and the investment required in Stoke on Trent so the campus can comfortable accommodate more students, but will look to vacate the Stafford campus by 2016 at the latest, moving all computing and entertainment technology degrees out of the county town.
Chair of the board of governors, Steve Burgin said the board had a clear responsibility to the financial sustainability of the institution.
"The competitive nature of higher education today, coupled with the need to be highly efficient, means we must direct our valuable resources in the most effective way towards our students," he said. "In this context, we are adapting our footprint to secure our future and that of our students.
“Staffordshire University will continue to serve the Staffordshire community by contributing to economic growth in the region which will ultimately benefit our graduates and help them find suitable employment in the county.”
The University's nursing and midwifery courses and health courses like paramedic and public health will continue to be based in Stafford and potentially relocated to the town centre, while Staffordshire University Business Village on Stafford Technology Park, will be maintained as a facility to support graduates wanting to start up their own businesses in Stafford.
Director of finance and infrastructure, Mark Hattersley, said: "Having reached this decision, we now have a considerable amount of work to make this happen.
"We will be looking to build on the successful move of our engineering provision to our Stoke campus this year and to minimise the impact on our existing students. "Many jobs will transfer with the students although we do anticipate there will be a reduction in staffing associated with the merger of two campuses and we will be meeting with staff and unions as the plans are developed."