Dismayed students’ bid to save University of Kent’s Brussels hub

Students, staff and alumni made a last-ditch attempt to avert the closure of a British university postgraduate satellite hub in Brussels, with non-EU international students said to be fearful about the legal status of their student visas following the move.

The decision to take the axe to the Belgian satellite known as the Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS) was made public on 30 March 2023 by the University of Kent, which bills itself as “The UK’s European University”.

Students say they were told of the impending closure “via a cryptic email” and that the process has been “grossly mishandled: the decision was made unilaterally, with no transparency or prior consultation with concerned staff, students and local administration”.

It was only after the students affected held a whip-round to raise enough money to send a representative to the university’s main campus in Canterbury to demand a face-to-face meeting that Kent’s vice-chancellor, Professor Karen Cox, travelled to Brussels to meet the 85 students and members of the 13-strong academic and professional staff body based at the BSIS, on Monday 17 April 2023.

A spokesperson for the Brussels-based students told University World News they were disappointed not to receive a proper plan for how the University of Kent would guarantee that masters and PhD students could successfully complete their programmes.

“All we heard were generic words like ‘support’ and ‘we hear your anger’ and not answers to our valid questions about the practical way forward,” the student spokesperson said.

Lack of transparency

“They also admitted that discussions about financial problems in the university had taken place in November and December 2022, but [they] still took in a new batch of students in January and sent out admission offers for September 2023 [for BSIS].”

The student spokesperson also challenged the assertion that the decision to close the Brussels operation was due to financial issues, claiming they had been assured that the financial status “was good to continue” just four months ago. “What’s changed? The lack of transparency is astounding,” said the student.

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