A British university has been accused of ‘wasting money’ after opening a sister campus on Mauritius – only to close it just two years later over lack of demand.
Aberystwyth University built the overseas site to accommodate 2,000 students, but only 106 enrolled in its second year and in its first year there were only 40.
The institution – which has to make £6milllion saving this year – made a loss of nearly £200,000 (Rs 9 062 000) from the venture during the first 12 months, according to its latest figures.
The campus was opened in 2015 with an aim to provide degree courses for both British and international students.
Its degree courses include criminal law, business finance and computer science and the university has spent about £600,000 on the venture, mostly on staff.
At the time, Professor John Grattan, Pro Vice-Chancellor for International and Student Experience, said: ‘Why Mauritius? Why not! Whilst many regard Mauritius as a holiday destination for newly-weds, the British Council has recognised the small island’s ambitions to be a global hub for higher education in Africa and India.
‘Are we brave in seeking to develop a new branch campus in the Indian Ocean? Absolutely. However, we need to extend our reach, be entrepreneurial and take big steps forward with our international and developmental strategies that provide a clear signal of our intent.’
But last year Professor Derec Llwyd Morgan, who ran the university from 1994 to 2004, branded the venture ‘madness’ and said resources would be better off invested in ‘high-quality staffing’ in the UK.
In October it was announced that 11 academic jobs were to be lost at Aberystwyth in a bid to make £6 million savings in the current financial year.
This week, it emerged the governing body of the institution has decided it will ‘not enrol further intakes of students’ at the branch campus from March 2018.
The closure plans, discovered by BBC’s Newyddion 9 programme, emerged after information was disclosed in minutes from the university’s council meeting in October.
They read: ‘Discussions with the academic departments which deliver programmes at the branch campus had indicated that there was no appetite for an intake of new students in March 2018.’
The move was welcomed by Mid and West Wales Assembly Member Simon Thomas, who is also a former student.
He said he wanted the university to return to its ‘core values’ as a university in mid Wales and not focus on ‘a vision I did not share’.
Cen Llwyd, of Ffrindiau Pantycelyn, a campaign group set up to protect Welsh language halls of residence at Aberystwyth University, called the Mauritius venture ‘a waste of money’.
The Mauritius campus plan was overseen by former vice chancellor Professor April McMahon, who earned £254,000 (RS 11 508 000) in her last year including benefits.
She was also given a £100,000 (Rs 4 530 000)pay-off when she left, according to local media.
She stepped down from her role last year following a furore over the university slipping down a newspaper universities league table.
Aberystwyth is ranked 68th out of 129 in the Complete University Guide league table and did not take part in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework this year.
It comes amid a growing debate over whether universities are using funds provided by students and the taxpayer in the most efficient way.
Vice chancellors across the country have already been criticised for accepting salaries which by far exceed that of the Prime Minister when student fees have increased again to £9,250 (RS 419 076).
The university did not respond to a request for comment.