On 30 March, the top management of the University of Kent announced the abrupt closure of its satellite campus, the Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS), in operation in Brussels, Belgium, since 1998, with no prior notice or future plan. I am writing to you on behalf of the student body at BSIS to draw your attention to how this process has been grossly mishandled: the decision was made unilaterally, with no transparency nor prior consultation with concerned staff, students, and local administration.
Abrupt closure leaves students’ academic journey under threat
Students at the campus were blindsided by the decision via a cryptic email sent on 30 March 2023, which merely indicated that the University of Kent intends to ‘wind down operations’ from September 2023, with full closure by spring 2024, citing lack of financial viability. Moreover, the staff was also caught unaware and was informed of the decision by a delegation from Kent on the same day.
With less than 24 hours’ notice, students attended a Q&A session with Kent’s Dean of Europe the following day. Accompanied by only a single PowerPoint slide, the Kent representative failed to respond with constructive answers to our valid questions about the nature and consequences of the haphazard decision, aside from ungrounded assurance that degrees would remain valid and that current students will be able to graduate.
Is the guarantee worth anything?
Considering professors and staff had received termination notices, how exactly this guarantee would be fulfilled was not addressed. The university had no plan in place for how our studies will be devalued by their termination of staff and professors, nor a practical map of how our academic experience would continue unhindered to completion.
We were then assured of a visit the following week (1 April) by high-level management, a promise that Kent failed to fulfil. In response, the student body was forced to collectivise its resources to send a student representative on their behalf to Canterbury (where the University of Kent is headquartered) to seek answers. Only after this in-person plea to hear our valid concerns, did Vice Chancellor Karen Cox finally communicate her intention to visit BSIS on 17 April.
University has failed to show justification for the closure
The students feel that the university has not provided adequate justification for the closure of the campus. This lack of transparency also begs the question of whether alternative options were properly considered. Kent’s financial woes should not unfairly impact the education and experience of students in Brussels. Seeing as Kent has already once rescinded their promise to visit Brussels for an in-person visit and talk, students are not assured that Vice Chancellor Karen Cox’s visit on 17 April will necessarily take place, nor that it will provide any clear answers to our urgent questions.
Students request that their voices be heard
In light of the University of Kent sharing a statement regarding the BSIS closure on 6 April, the student body feels that it is crucial that our voice is also added to the conversation around the future of BSIS. We have 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.
Offers of places withdrawn
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. We hope that your publication can help us shed a light on the callous disregard Kent is showing for their students through a hurried and unnecessary closure.
Closure belies university’s international aspiration
We feel this issue is of wider relevance as well, considering the financial issues many UK institutions are currently facing and the weakened links between the UK and Europe post-Brexit. BSIS is a specialised postgraduate institution with an exceptional track record in terms of research and innovation in the fields of international studies, law, and politics – it is no small feat to have such an institution in Brussels linking the UK and Europe. The University of Kent declares itself ‘the UK’s European University’, and such treatment of this flagship campus goes directly against the university’s supposed internationalisation strategy.
BSIS students demand transparency and accountability
We believe that they owe both transparency and accountability to their student community, faculty, and staff. It is our intention to fight for that. You are thus welcome to follow our student support accounts on Instagram and Twitter for any updates and reach out to us at [email protected] for further information.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
BSIS Student Community