University of Sussex professor Fred Gray examined how cultural attractions and higher education have improved economic prospects in Bognor Regis, Folkestone, Margate and Portsmouth. His report says many seaside towns still need regeneration because their commercial centres are blighted by crumbling hotels.
The study, funded by the South East England Development Agency, was commissioned through regeneration group the Creative Foundation on behalf of bodies including Arun and Shepway District Councils and Portsmouth City Council.
It warns that the model of renewal subsidised by profitable property development has stopped working because of the recession and it is "quite uncertain how soon, if at all, this mechanism will begin to work again".
Gray said: "Cultural regeneration can be promoted instead as an inventive, economical and socially cohesive means of delivering renewal while more conventional commercial approaches are postponed." These could be low-cost, drawing on residents' enthusiasm and supported by universities, he suggested.
But British Resorts and Destinations Association director Peter Hampson responded: "Places such as Brighton and Bournemouth have done well by having a higher education element. But who will make it happen elsewhere?"