College forges ahead
SUFFOLK College is looking to the future with ambitious moves which could eventually lead to the creation of a university for the county.Today principal Professor Dave Muller said that redeveloping the college campus would give scope to attract thousands of extra students studying for degrees and other higher education qualifications.
SUFFOLK College is looking to the future with ambitious moves which could eventually lead to the creation of a university for the county.
Today principal Professor Dave Muller said that redeveloping the college campus would give scope to attract thousands of extra students studying for degrees and other higher education qualifications.
"I think that, by enhancing the accommodation, it's quite likely we could develop new separate buildings for higher and further education," he said.
At present the college has around 4,000 full and part-time higher education students out of a total of 25,000 on the roll.
But it is hoped to increase this number to 7,000 higher education students, again full and part-time.
Prof Muller said this would be getting towards the size of a smaller higher education college or university in terms of student numbers.
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However, a full university would need a much larger site and is still an idea for the very long term.
The current expansion plans come as Suffolk College is putting its 18-acre campus up for sale in a multi-million pound deal, which could mean it eventually moves to a split site.
However, Prof Muller today stressed the college had no intention of moving out of Ipswich altogether.
"Our preference is to stay in the current vicinity and we would ideally like to sell just part of the site rather than all of it," he said.
But he added that, if a developer made a "very good" offer, they would possibly be prepared to consider selling the whole site – and moving to a new campus, possibly outside the town.
However, even if this happened, he said the college would in any case be retaining a strong presence in the town centre on their separate eight-acre site at the Waterfront, which they are looking to develop.
College bosses have decided to sell all or part of their site at Rope Walk in order to use the money raised to expand and build state-of-the-art new buildings.
"We are looking for a developer who would work in partnership with us on the whole site," said Prof Muller.
He said the college, which has recently applied for New Technology Institute status, was not in any kind of financial difficulties but wanted to raise extra capital to fund new buildings suitable for students of the 21st century.
"We see this as very exciting and positive."
Prof Muller said the developer could buy part of the site to develop as they wanted, subject to planning constraints, and work with the college to develop its own buildings, including new lecture halls, on the other part of the site.
Suffolk College's other eight-acre site on the Waterfront is not being included in the tender process and Prof Muller said they would be using this land – currently given over to car parking – as part of their new-look campus.
This meant the college would still have a total site similar in size to its present one, although some car parking space would be lost. "We have a lot of people parking here at the moment who are not always using the college," commented Prof Muller.
The college is to launch its commercial tender document in the spring and buyers will have until October to put forward their bids.
Then the decision will be taken on whether to sell part or all of the site, along with deciding if and where to develop new premises.