College future a mystery

WHAT is happening at Suffolk College?It's future seems to have been a matter of speculation in one form or another for the last 20 years – and now things are getting even more confused.

WHAT is happening at Suffolk College?

It's future seems to have been a matter of speculation in one form or another for the last 20 years – and now things are getting even more confused.

When Suffolk County Council announced it was going to move to the new TXU building and call it Endeavour House, there was much rejoicing among many college staff and managers.

They saw the fact that the county would be moving away from Rope Walk – and particularly away from St Edmund House – as an opportunity to press for expansion.


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"St Edmund House would make a wonderful library for the college – a library fit for a university," one board member told me.

He was still pushing this line a few weeks ago. "Wouldn't it be good if the county were to give St Edmund House to the college? It would be a real boost to the regeneration of the area," he said.

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But the college itself doesn't seem so enthusiastic – in fact it seems downright hostile to the prospect of expansion on to the county council site.

When I called principal Dave Muller for a comment, I couldn't get through to him.

"The college has no interest in the county council site, and the principal has nothing to say about that," his secretary told me.

There are persistant rumours that the college may be considering splitting itself in two to separate the further and higher education departments.

This is in line with the government's desire to allow more higher education colleges to become universities while ensuring they are separate entities from FE colleges.

But at this time of the year it's always difficult to get anything out of educational institutions and no one wants to say too much about an uncertain future.

Getting a university in Suffolk has always been seen as a long-term aim for many people in Ipswich.

But while the government has been encouraging colleges to go for university status, there doesn't seem to be as much encouragement for Ipswich as it needs.

Suffolk College wasn't on the original list of colleges heading for university status and now ministers seem more keen to boost further education.

That is sensible overall – what's the use of producing thousands of history graduates who end up temping as secretaries when there's a shortage of plumbers and electricians?

But looking at the situation narrowly, it doesn't really bode well for the academic ambitions in Ipswich.

I HATE flying. I haven't been up in a plane for 16 years – and while I'd like to see countries on the other side of the world I'm not sure it would be worth being trapped in a little metal tube for hours to achieve that.

The industrial problems at Heathrow have left me feeling rather smug as I enjoy a family holiday closer to home.

But I can't help feeling that all the problems being faced by so many people who should be enjoying their two or three weeks away could stoke up problems for the government.

Industrial problems – whether or not the government is party to them – knock confidence in the country.

And nothing angers voters more than missing out on the holiday they have saved all year for.

That's something for Tony Blair to reflect on as he relaxes away from the Westminster hothouse.

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