Counting the days

University Campus Suffolk's Richard Lister on the countdown to the launch of the county's new higher education centre.

IT'S not quite the Millennium countdown clock, but in the UCS office we have a large homemade calendar counting down to the big day when we actually “go live” and begin our real existence.

The calendar tells us we are now under 30 weeks to the launch of University Campus Suffolk and the pace of activity continues to quicken. If we are going to hit all our deadlines there are a lot of decisions to be made and work to be done.

First of all there is a major new building to be put in place, and while it certainly will not be ready for the launch we are still confident that we can be ready as planned to welcome our second intake in autumn 2008 into the Waterfront Building. The designs successfully negotiated the planning hurdles and we are now working with the developers to ensure a smooth start on the site in a couple of months' time.

It will also be an opportunity for us to display around the site the plans for the finished campus.

It will enable visitors enjoying the waterfront area to see the campus develop and see how it will end up and try to picture the completed regenerated dock area. We will also have a webcam showing the building as it develops day by day.

The university is, of course, not just about buildings and physical infrastructure, we are already well ahead with our plans for what we are going to teach and how we are going to deliver the curriculum. This is not true just for the coming year but our plans for students joining us in 2008 are nearly finalised and we are at an early stage in planning what we will be offering in 2009. There are around 25 new degrees on offer this year with over 40 new ones starting in 2008 making us a very fast moving rapid growth organisation.

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We also are building our links with local employers and putting on short courses that are relevant to their companies and employees, that will be of value to them and which they will want to buy from us. Increasingly higher education has a key role to play in workforce development and we are able to offer a range of options that can make companies up to date, competitive and more innovative. Working with a university whether through professional development or specifically tailored research can give companies and those operating in the private sector a real advantage over the competition. We also want to work with companies to provide support for student placements and work experience. We intend to ensure all our students are “work ready” and of use to employers - or able to start their own business - and we need help from employers across the county to make this happen.

It is amazing how much needs to be put in place to start a new business. As most businesses know, the level of bureaucracy and red tape is quite frightening. The number of policies, protocols and procedures required to be in place, from Equal Opportunities to Health and Safety, from Quality Assurance to Freedom of Information the sheer weight of legislation and regulation can seem a burden much greater than actually running the business - but like everyone else we just have to do it!

Many new staff join us on August 1 this year - a majority will come to us from Suffolk College and again there is a huge amount to be done to welcome and incorporate the new workforce and create a new dynamic environment allowing us to develop a new type of University. In many ways this is the most important thing we have to do in the next few months; to develop a way of doing things that is distinctive. To create an organisation which is really clear about what it does, what it stands for and what its values are. Of course, we will build on the strengths we inherit from staff and students but at the same time we will be starting something new and we want very quickly to put our own distinctive stamp on the world of education. We also want to ensure that we stand for something that people in Ipswich and Suffolk are in tune with and of which they can feel proud.

So with 29 weeks to go to opening we still have a huge and rather frightening amount to do.

But we have the team in place and the principles of operating to do it properly and build something really worthwhile. It is that outcome we are all focussed on and are determined to complete the job on time and to get it right for the staff students and communities that we will be serving.

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