Political parties back university plan
By Jonathan BarnesCROSS-PARTY support has been pledged to an ambitious plan to deliver a university to Suffolk.The county council has given its full backing to the multi-million-pound project, which could see a campus opening its doors to higher education students within four years.
By Jonathan Barnes
CROSS-PARTY support has been pledged to an ambitious plan to deliver a university to Suffolk.
The county council has given its full backing to the multi-million-pound project, which could see a campus opening its doors to higher education students within four years.
Members discussed the project at yesterday's full council meeting and were told of the “unique opportunity” to end decades of trying to establish a university in Suffolk.
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They agreed the county council should continue to take a lead role in promoting the project and gave the go-ahead for chief executive, Mike More, to look at options to use council land and buildings to support the plan.
The Universities of East Anglia and Essex are working together on the project, with a number of key stakeholders.
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Plans include a main campus, based on and around Suffolk College's existing site in Ipswich and the town's waterfront, and a number of satellite centres around the county.
The university is planned to accommodate the equivalent of 5,000 full-time students within three years of the completion of the new buildings, which would cover 40,000 square metres and cost £80m.
Mr More told the meeting there was “a unique opportunity to make progress” towards delivering a university.
Nick Foster, chief executive of the Suffolk Learning and Skills Council, said attempts by Suffolk College to become a university were “long dead”, but urged councillors to back this new opportunity to deliver a new facility.
Council leader, Bryony Rudkin, spoke of creating “a university for the 21st Century”, but added: “It needs to be absolutely sure the right deal is struck. No-one is going to sell the family silver.”
Councillors on all sides insisted the project should be packaged as a university for the whole of Suffolk, not just Ipswich.
The Conservative group put forward an amendment to the proposed recommendations to make sure the future use of the council's existing buildings in St Helen's Street - soon to be vacated for a move to a new building across Ipswich - was of maximum benefit to the taxpayer.
They wanted to see the best possible deal from the disposal of the site, rather than just committing it to the university, but their motion was defeated by 37 votes to 24.