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Fury as London Metropolitan Uni plans to close its ‘City Fringe’ campuses

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 October 2015 | UPDATED: 08:18 21 October 2015

Mayor John Biggs [inset] furious at London Met Uni's Cass centre in Whitechapel closing

Mayor John Biggs [inset] furious at London Met Uni's Cass centre in Whitechapel closing

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Hundreds of university places are being lost in the City and East London with plans to shut down three campuses.

London Metropolitan's main university campus in Holloway set to expandLondon Metropolitan's main university campus in Holloway set to expand

The troubled London Metropolitan University is closing its two ‘City Fringe’ centres in Whitechapel and its City branch at Moorgate and shifting everything out of central London back to its main campus at Holloway in north London.

The move starting in 2017 has infuriated Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs, who also represents the City and East London on the London Assembly.

He accused the London Met of “mismanagement” and is calling for top level talks with university bosses to try and prevent the closures.

“I was deeply shocked to learn of the decision to relocate out of the East End,” he said.

“To put this valuable heritage at risk in order to address the university’s financial mismanagement is a tragedy.

“I will be seeking urgent talks with the university authorities to see what can be done about a decision that threatens this proud institutional history and diminishes our community.”

The loss of all student places in Whitechapel was a blow, he added, but the decision to move Sir John Cass Department of Art and Design was “particularly upsetting”.

The Cass centre through its predecessor institutions has deep roots in the East End and was ideally situated “at the heart of the vibrant cultural industry quarter of the City fringe”.

Students at Whitechapel and Moorgate where visual arts, architecture, business and law courses are taught spoke out this week over threats to some courses they fear might be discontinued.

Sir John Cass Faculty’s student union officer Amanda Marillier said: “These cuts will undermine London Met’s role in promoting access to education for working-class and disadvantaged sections of society.”

But London Metropolitan vice chancellor Prof John Raftery defended the relocation. The university believed the move “will benefit our students and our staff who will have more opportunities to collaborate”, he insisted.

The university, which had 34,000 students in its heyday—many from deprived communities like the East End—has been hit by financial crises since 2009 with ‘repayment’ demands by Whitehall of £36 million following allegations of mismanagement for over-estimating its student roll numbers when negotiating its government funding.

It responded by axing 550 posts, which led to walk-outs by lecturers bringing the campuses at Commercial Road and Central House in Whitechapel High Street to a standstill, along with the Moorgate and Holloway campuses.

Rallies were staged and a huge petition sent to the Department of Skills calling for a public inquiry into the way the London Met handled its finances.

The UCU lecturers union general secretary Sally Hunt said at the time: “The situation at London Met is a nightmare—it’s not acceptable for management to punish the staff. Those responsible for the mess must be held accountable, not the staff”.

The university was hit by more trouble in 2012 when the Home Office revoked its license for immigration status for a year after recruiting high fee-paying students from outside the EU at the expense of UK applicants.

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