High debts have forced Central Sussex College to announce the closure of its Haywards Heath and East Grinstead campuses.
The news was broken to staff – 19 of whom will be made redundant – on Wednesday (April 13).
The Haywards Heath campus, which underwent a £30million rebuild between 2011 and 2013, will stay open until students finish their courses in the summer of 2017, after which it will be sold.
The East Grinstead campus will close this September, with its courses being moved to Crawley.
College principal Sarah Wright said: “It is a huge blow. We are very proud of the students taught at Haywards Heath and East Grinstead, past and present, and the excellent teachers that have helped them succeed.
“However, the brutal truth is that our debts are too high and in order to protect the majority of students and staff, and the wider community, we have to substantially reduce our costs.
“There are very significant savings to be had from reducing the number of campuses from which we operate and the board is clear that our focus must be as a leading, specialist provider of vocational education.”
As well as the financial issues, Ms Wright said an increase in the number of sixth-forms in the area along with an “over supply” of A-level courses had also contributed to the decision to close.
A spokesman said the college was in discussion with the Department for Education and West Sussex County Council about the potential use of the Haywards Heath site as an academy for both primary and secondary aged children.
Ms Wright said: “Our hope and intention is that the site should become a school in an area with acute need for primary and pre-16 secondary provision.”
Stating her immediate priorities to be to “minimise the disruption to students and deal as fairly as possible with affected staff”, Ms Wright added: “We have timed the announcement so as to give as early warning as possible to applicants. A-level and vocational students half way through two-year courses will continue until the end of their courses.”
Chairman of governors, Chris Maidment said: “The board of governors have taken this difficult decision in order to secure the future of the college so that it can focus on its leading role as a specialist in vocational education – improving the skills and job opportunities of the local workforce and helping young people train for sustainable, enjoyable, economically beneficial careers.”
The college also runs a campus at a site in Horsham, which is around half way through a five-year lease.
A spokesman said the provision there would be reviewed when the lease ended.
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