The student body at BSIS have been campaigning on social media for clarity from Vice Chancellor Karen Cox, believing the process has been grossly mishandled with no prior consultation with concerned staff, students and local administration.
The vice-chancellor and senior management from the University of Kent were due to visit the campus on April 17 and provide further information on the ongoing situation.
It has been reported that an email communication was sent to staff and students on March 30, stating the intention to wind-down teaching from September 2023 with full closure by May 2024.
A statement released from the student body reads, “the closure of the campus has left us with significant concerns about the status and value of our degrees, job prospects, and even the legal situation in Europe for those students on student visas.
“With the university providing no plans regarding the promised completion of our degree, tensions are high.
“In addition, we have received reports from students who were to begin this September that their offers have suddenly been cancelled, leaving them with potentially no school to attend and insufficient time for alternative academic planning,” the statement continued.
Overseas campuses have long been seen as the hallmark of a globalised university and can significantly boost the reputation and pipeline of students to the main institution.
There are many in the sector, however, who have questioned the financial viability of overseas campuses – in 2019, the University of Reading was forced to release a statement defending the financial viability of its Malaysia campus.
The BSIS has been in operation since 1998 and acted as a hub for another satellite campus based in Paris.
In 2017 a report from the Observatory On Borderless Higher Education praised BSIS as a blueprint for how branch campuses should operate in Europe, successfully securing research and university partnerships in Belgium and northern France. It is now unclear how that network will be managed moving forward and if the Paris campus will also be affected.
UK institutions have seen a significant decline in interest from European students since Brexit, coupled with increased competition across the continent as many private universities have sought to secure the newly available market share.
In response to the PIE’s request for comment, the University of Kent said after “extensive reviews and internal discussions, we have taken the difficult and regretful decision to wind down our postgraduate Brussels School of International Studies from next year”.
The University of Kent told the PIE that its presence in Brussels is an “important part” of the institution’s history, but running the establishment at “increasing cost” – and other wider pressures have resulted in the campus “no longer being sustainable” for Kent.
“Our intention is for this year’s cohort to be our final Brussels graduates, with no new cohorts next academic year. Teaching will continue as normal until Summer 2024, with all current applicants being contacted personally to explore alternative study options at Kent.
We understand this news has been unsettling for staff and students at the School, as well as for our alumni from what has been a remarkable 25 years, and we are fully committed to doing all we can to support and accommodate them,” a spokesperson said.
They also mentioned the vice-chancellor’s visit to Brussels on April 17 to “discuss plans and answer questions directly” on ongoing support.
“We have and will continue to listen to our students during what we know to be a very challenging time for them.”
Do you work or study at BSIS and have been affected by the closure? Have your say in the comments below or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org