Dream day comes true

A DREAM of bringing higher education to Suffolk is finally to be realised this month with the creation of University Campus Suffolk. In the first of a two-part series charting changes in Ipswich's education quarter, JOSH WARWICK reports.

A DREAM of bringing higher education to Suffolk is finally to be realised this month with the creation of University Campus Suffolk. In the first of a two-part series charting changes in Ipswich's education quarter, JOSH WARWICK reports.

TODAY is a historic day for Suffolk.

After years of dreaming, planning and hard work, the county at last boasts its own university.

The current 40-strong University Campus Suffolk (UCS) team have been making frantic last minute preparations as the institution finally becomes a living and breathing body.

Polly Bridgman, UCS head of marketing said: “It's a very exciting time, but also stressful, too, because we are working towards so many things. August 1 is a momentous day, the day the university is finally here, but it's certainly not the end of the story. There is still lots more to be done here.

“We have the students and staff to transfer over. We will be going from around 40 staff to around 300 or 400.

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“The building is running to schedule and it's getting exciting because people will soon be able to visualise it properly as it appears from behind the hoardings.”

Although the August 1 deadline was essentially a formality, UCS student ambassadors did provide a presence in the town centre today, handing out information and answering questions.

Hoardings are soon to be erected around the university site featuring the 'UCS' name and then the clearing process (for students who looking for the last few university places) will be tackled, once A-level results are published on August 16.

Costing an estimated £150million over the next ten years, UCS plus a new Suffolk College building, will create an 'education quarter' stretching from Rope Walk to the Ipswich Waterfront.

A partnership lead by the universities of East Anglia and Essex, the UCS project is supported by Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council and the East of England Development Agency. There will also be substantial private sector investment in the scheme.

Expected to be worth £1million a week to the Ipswich economy, UCS will include the Ipswich campus and a number of linked centres in other Suffolk towns. This county-wide campus will be known as the Suffolk Learning Centres.

The landmark building, which UCS bosses admit has caught the attention of prospective students at higher education fairs throughout the UK and beyond, is starting to take shape.

With work under way on the £20m building, UCS is now beginning to make its physical presence felt in the town. Although it will not be ready for the inaugural student intake in September, the cutting edge glass structure will be completed in time for the 2008/09 academic year, providing a focus to the campus.

In the first year of its existence, UCS will share accommodation with Suffolk New College.

Part of the aim centres on reducing the 'brain drain' which sees students migrate to other counties in pursuit of a degree. UCS is expected to help to improve the economic well being of those living in the county by working closely with businesses to better meet the needs of the local economy.

But the institution will also provide higher education opportunities for those outside Suffolk, catering for students completing A-levels or vocational qualifications in the 18-21-year-old age group and also mature students and those in work.

Courses will range from computer games design, fashion and textiles, and event management to the more weighty subjects of English, history, science and civil engineering.

Are you looking forward to Suffolk's university challenge? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk


Tomorrow: Part Two: Suffolk College is undergoing the most radical change since its birth in 1959.

Autumn 2002- Officials from the University of East Anglia and University of Essex meet with Suffolk College bosses to discuss a collaborative approach to extending higher education in Suffolk.

Spring 2003-Suffolk County Council revive ambitions for a university in the county. The council established a group made up from the interested parties.

January 2004-Higher Education Funding Council for England awarded £245,000 of funding to produce a business case for the UCS scheme.

Spring 2004-Ipswich Borough Council agreed a £10million contribution towards land purchases for the project.

June 2004-The website www.ucs.ac.uk was launched at the Suffolk Show.

November 2004-The plans gain pace as Suffolk County Council pledges £13 million to buy the land needed for the main campus in Ipswich.

December 2004-The project team submits a bid to HEFCE for £15 million of funding.

February 2005 HEFCE grants £15m towards the project.

September 2005 East of England Development Agency grants a further £12.5million to the project.

March 2006-Treasury rubber stamps £12.5m EEDA grant.

April 2007 - setting up of estates department to help with student accommodation needs.

August 2007 - official launch of UCS.

Up to September 2007 - development of Student Union.

September 2007 - first students to enrol.

Autumn 2008 - planned opening of first new building on Ipswich Waterfront.