Dream of university step closer

DREAMS of a creating a university for Suffolk are a step nearer reality today.Board members at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) have given an early green light to the revolutionary project.

DREAMS of a creating a university for Suffolk are a step nearer reality today.

Board members at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) have given an early green light to the revolutionary project.

University chiefs from Essex and UEA are now pressing ahead with detailed curriculum plans which will be laid out before the government body at a crunch meeting in July.

Suffolk County Council chief executive Mike More is leading the drive. And he is delighted with the progress so far.

He said: "The most important news is that the Hefce board have approved it to go the next key stage.

"There were looking for a 'sufficiently persuasive' case to take before the Treasury and they are satisfied with what we've shown them."

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The ambitious plans to launch the university would see a central hub in a newly-created education quarter in Ipswich, probably centred around Suffolk College's current campus and the waterfront regeneration area.

Other regional spokes would then be established, probably in Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds, although the identity of the rural sites has yet to be confirmed.

Suffolk's business community have thrown their weight behind the proposed institution, which would be jointly managed by UEA and Essex University.

If successful, it would provide a major boost to the region's economy.

Mr More the government's victory in the controversial university top-up fee debate could be a key factor for future success.

Extra money coming into the higher education system could be channelled into new building projects.

And with the changes likely to result in an increasing proportion of students staying at home, a more local university could be seen as a priority.

Mr More said: "Thursday's debate in the House of Commons was very important. If it had been lost it would have created a much more difficult scenario.

"We need to keep our eyes on that debate as it heads into a second reading.

"For Suffolk people, and especially mature students, there might be a reluctance to move away from home.

"Staying much closer to their home base might become a more likely scenario."

N Do you think a university would benefit Suffolk? Write in with your views to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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