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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 15:58 GMT
University 'for sale' on eBay
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff

Ebay page
Could the university be the biggest item ever put 'up for sale'?
It could be the real estate bargain of a lifetime.

Overlooking beautiful beaches and within hiking distance of sumptuous countryside, several hundred acres of prime land - complete with a 50-metre swimming pool - could be yours for just over 50 - at the last count.

Hannah Quinn, a student at Swansea University, has put the entire campus "up for sale" on the internet auction site eBay, in protest at plans to introduce higher tuition fees and close some departments.

According to the advert, the property comes complete with around 13,000 students and "all departments included".

'Stunning sea views'

With just over nine days to go until the auction closed, the bidding had even outpaced property inflation in Swansea, reaching 54.89 ($102.50), from an opening price of just $2.

Potential buyers are promised "stunning sea views, beautiful listed buildings and top academic departments".

More active types could enjoy the gyms, cricket nets and indoor sports centre.

The Swansea campus also includes the Wales National Pool, a training area for would-be Olympic swimmers.

The satirical sales pitch comes amid a National Union of Students campaign against a "market" in higher education, which it says will be the result of allowing universities to charge tuition fees of up to 3,000 a year.

The university is also planning to close down five departments.

'Delivery could be a problem'

In the advert, Ms Quinn accuses the Swansea authorities of "selling out".

She told BBC News Online: "It's an absolutely beautiful place, so I'm sure the bidding will get higher. I'm not certain what we will do about handing it over when the bidding closes though.

Swansea University campus
Beautifully appointed and yours for just 50 or so

"We thought this would be a good way of getting some humour into our campaign to keep the university as it is. I hope it makes people more aware of how students feel."

NUS Wales president Natasha Hirst said: "Although this is a joke, it rams home the point of just how damaging a market in higher education would be.

"Variable top-up fees will see degrees at our universities being sold to the highest bidder, not the most suitable students.

"It is vital that universities and students defeat top-up fees and defeat all forms of chequebook learning."

The eBay site has almost 95 million users worldwide. The most expensive item sold on it to date is a Gulfstream jet for $4.9m (2.6m) - even then, a fraction of the market value of Swansea University.

The vice-chancellor, Professor Richard Davies, said: "We have been encouraging entrepreneurial thinking among our students for some time, but I'm very surprised that it's gone this far."

  • The Higher Education Bill, currently going through parliament, would allow universities in England to charge variable tuition fees from 2006. It would give power to the Welsh Assembly to let universities in Wales do the same, but the Assembly Government has promised not to use this until at least April 2007.

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