Governors at Manchester Metropolitan University voted on Friday to close the campus in south Cheshire.
South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce said the closure and loss of nearly 2,000 students and 150 academic staff from the area would be a serious blow to the local economy. Shop owners, restaurants and student landlords will all be affected.
At its peak in 2003 the campus accommodated 6,000 students but numbers have dwindled to 1,674 on 1 October this year.
The university spent £60m on new facilities at the campus six years ago. At the time it also mothballed the separate Alsager campus in Congleton where a £100m housing development is proposed with Barratt.
Cheshire East Council said it would create a task force to secure the best possible future for the site.
A spokesman for Manchester Metropolitan University said it “has been undertaking a review of the long-term future of academic provision at its Cheshire campus. The University’s Board of Governors met [on Friday 25 November] to discuss the three options considered within a business case prepared by external consultants.
“After full and careful consideration, the Board has endorsed a preference to withdraw from the campus.”
The statement from MMU continued: “It is important to note the board of Governors endorsement does not constitute a final decision about the future of the Cheshire campus. Work will now begin to develop this option further. The university started a period of collective consultation today at a meeting with representatives of the university’s recognised trade unions (UCU, UNISON, GMB).
“The University Executive Group will consider feedback from the collective consultation exercise before asking the Board of Governors to make a final decision in the Spring Term 2017. The review was undertaken following the decision by the Board, at an earlier meeting, that the campus was neither academically nor financially sustainable.
“Any changes that come about as a result of this course of action will be staged over a period of time, and it is planned that students will continue to be taught at the Cheshire campus until summer 2019.”
Prof Malcolm Press, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “It has been evident for some time that the Cheshire campus is no longer academically or financially sustainable for the University. The review conducted by Deloitte has examined the options in detail and concluded that the only viable solution is withdrawal from the campus. I recognise the significance of this for the staff, students and local community, but it is important to note that this remains a proposal subject to further consultation.”
Cheshire East Council leader Cllr Rachel Bailey said: “We will continue to work closely with the university to ensure the best possible outcomes for our communities, including residents, businesses and the students currently taking courses at the Crewe campus.
“We are committed to ensuring a strong, attractive and innovative higher education provision in Crewe, aligned to the needs of the local and sub-regional economic priorities.
“Although this decision creates current challenges, we also look forward to the various opportunities for future development which it presents – particularly in line with the recent positive news on HS2.
“The council will ensure that the future of the campus continues to be part of our major strategic plan for the area, which includes the Northern Gateway Development Zone and the Crewe masterplan.
“Cheshire East will create a task force to start work immediately on identifying potential partnerships and securing the best possible outcome for this site.
“The task force will also protect the longer-term skills aspirations for the region and ensure that opportunities arising from this decision can be capitalised on for the benefit of our borough.”