Lincoln University is set to become the only university campus in the country without a bookshop.
According to the Tertiary Education Union, the university has this week told staff its bookshop will close for good on 31 March, despite receiving more than 100 submissions and a petition with hundreds more calling for it to remain open.
“We haven’t been given any rationale other than there’s a squeeze on funding,” said union president Sandra Grey.
“Over the past decade institutions are getting more students and less funding. Deep cuts happen as a result.”
The Wireless has asked Lincoln University for comment, which is yet to publicly confirm the decision.
Lincoln student president Danyon Thomas said the bookshop, which is open throughout the day, “has a huge convenience factor about it, especially with ours being quite a rural campus”.
He concedes the changing nature of study means many students either don’t use books at all or buy them online. “But I’d equally say there’s just as many who still buy them from the shop”.
He said the bookshop has a community-feel about it.
“There’s something about a bookshop that is quite romantic, and there’s the practical ease of getting things printed on-site and being able to pick up course readers and buy that emergency pen when you forget to bring one.”
The shop also provides post and mail services, and sells confectionery and Lincoln University merchandise. It has quite an active Facebook page.
Thomas said there has been an air of disbelief on campus since it was announced the shop might go.
“That’s been the overwhelming feeling - can we really be the only university campus without a bookshop?,” he said.
“Yes, we’re small and different to other universities, but really, how different are we?”
He hopes the university puts together a clear and easy-to-use alternative plan for students to buy books.
Sandra Grey said the decision seemed like a short-sighted one.
“It is so important to have facilities on campuses that provide specialist services and have people with specialist skills like those who work in the bookshop.”
The half-a-dozen staff members will either be made redundant or redeployed on campus.
Grey said it was a symptom of underfunding across the whole sector. Jobs are going at many institutions, most notably about 180 at Otago University.
The Government has confirmed first-time students will get a free year of study from next year, and three years free by 2024.
As more students are expected to attend university, Grey said she was hopeful institutions will get a fair boost in funding.
“We’re talking with Labour a lot at the moment about how we’ve seen nine years of austerity budgets that have pushed our institutions to the wall.”