Could UCS decision be fatal to heritage centre hopes for Ipswich?

An artist's impression of the new heritage centre.

An artist's impression of the new heritage centre. - Credit: Archant

Hopes of gaining a multi-million pound lottery grant to develop a new records office in Ipswich could have been dealt a potentially fatal blow.

UCS has made the decision to suspend its heritage courses which could have repercussions for the planned research hub, a senior Conservative councillor has warned.

However UCS provost Richard Lister said heritage remained an important element at the university – and it would be able to persuade lottery chiefs that it was as committed as ever to the project.

Alan Murray is the only Conservative county councillor from Ipswich and warned that the decision by UCS would be seen as a lack of commitment to the project by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

He said: “Are we likely to receive a significant Heritage Lottery Funded grant for the development of a Suffolk Heritage Research Centre without a significant heritage unit at UCS – I seriously doubt it.

“Come on UCS, talk to your partners for Suffolk’s sake and reverse your decision!”

Dr Murray said it was vital to provide a heritage course to show how important the county considered the subject: “If we do not teach heritage at either foundation or masters degree level in Suffolk, then our own school leavers will have to leave the county for training, perhaps never to return.

“History is not necessarily heritage. Heritage; that is the generation of interest, learning and economic development from history, needs careful nurturing and training for it to work and enable us to continue to develop Suffolk as a visitor attraction.

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“Did UCS consult their partners in Suffolk before deciding on the closure of their admittedly embryonic heritage department? No they did not. Have they adequately marketed their courses? I think not.”

Mr Lister said heritage studies would continue to be important to UCS, and there would continue to be two senior members of staff with the word “heritage” in their job title.

Heritage courses had seen low numbers of applicants across the country – possibly because there were a large number of part-time and volunteer workers in the sector.

And many universities did not distinguish between history and heritage courses.

Mr Lister also said that by the time the heritage centre opened, the demand for courses could have returned.

He said: “Our commitment to heritage is unchanged. It is very important to UCS and I am sure we can show the HLF that we are a very committed partner to this project.”

The new Heritage Centre, due to be built on the north campus of UCS and to open in 2019, is expected to cost about £17m.

Suffolk County Council this week agreed to contribute £5m towards the capital costs and UCS is due to contribute £1m. The remaining £11m is due to come from other sources – principally a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.