Of fast food and physics departments

Debate is raging at Sussex University over the possible closure of one of the on-campus food stores.  The cause of greatest ire seems to be the decision to replace it with a cafe. 

As far as I have ever been able to discover there is only one other ‘supermarket’ on campus and that is pretty poorly stocked most of the time.  And there do seem to be a lot of cafes and fast food outlets.  And I realise that the University authorities are monopoly suppliers of space on campus (presumably) and that they might be equipped more with the skills of colonial administrators than thrusting entrepreneurs…

BUT, might it not be the case that simple market forces are at work here?  Presumably if the cafes werent popular they would be empty and the university would close them.  Or if the consumers (mostly students) preferred to buy dried lentils rather than ready cooked chips, there would be sufficient demand to prompt the university to open a whole-food store. 

I dont know much about university funding structures but it seems logical to suggest that the alternative is cross-subsidy which results in less money for things like, well, education.  There seem to be parrallels here with propping up departments that dont attract enough students…

 Of course, another solution might be for the Arts faculty to knock down the interior walls in their buildings, make their offices open-plan and then open up their own whole-food co-op in the extra space that would have been created!  🙂

 On the other hand I have never quite figured out how Birmingham managed to run a travel agents and a hair-dressers on campus when Sussex seems barely able to keep a corner shop open.  And as for a second hand book-shop, well that’s just sooo 1980s.


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