Town could get new college

EXCLUSIVEBy Jonathan BarnesA COLLEGE will undergo a £45million redevelopment if plans for a new university in the region are given the go-ahead.Most of Suffolk College's buildings on its 18-acre campus in Ipswich will be bulldozed to make way for a new further education facility.

EXCLUSIVE

By Jonathan Barnes

A COLLEGE will undergo a £45million redevelopment if plans for a new university in the region are given the go-ahead.

Most of Suffolk College's buildings on its 18-acre campus in Ipswich will be bulldozed to make way for a new further education facility.


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The new development is tied in with a project to deliver a university to Suffolk, which will be partly based on Ipswich's waterfront.

Business plans for the inter-linked projects will be submitted to the Higher Education Funding Council next month and the Government will decide in July whether to give the development the go-ahead.

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If approved, the new university could be opening its doors to students within four years.

Both Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council are backing the project and are at various stages of committing land to the development, which is a joint venture by the Universities of East Anglia and Essex.

Professor David Muller, principal of Suffolk College, said: “This is a win-win situation. It is a win for further education and a win for higher education.”

The redevelopment is likely to see the college's main building, which was opened by the Queen in 1961, knocked down, as well as a number of outbuildings at the Rope Walk site.

The proposal will include access roads through the site and the adjoining Alexandra Park promoted as a “green campus”, although it will remain open to the public.

Funding for the plans could be partially raised from contributions from the Learning and Skills Council and the East of England Development Agency.

Prof Muller said plans to establish a university campus were integrated with those to build a new further education college and were reliant on land being transferred to the project and Suffolk College handing over its existing higher education contracts.

“When that happens, we would prefer a completely new building. This building is old-fashioned and expensive to maintain as it stands now,” he added.

“The new plans are for one big campus and two separate institutions. We will see a new college of further education expanding to meet local needs.”

Prof Muller said it was undecided as yet which buildings would make way for the new college, although there was a suggestion the main hall and the college's new art block should remain.

It is understood talks with a retailer to purchase part of the Rope Walk site, instigated by the college earlier this year, have been shelved to accommodate the proposed Education Quarter.

Prof Muller said the transfer of higher education contracts - which are worth about £10billion - would allow the college to concentrate on further education, which would account for 85% of its courses in the new arrangement. It is currently about 50%.

He added the college would retain vocational and professional courses and foundation degrees, some in partnership with the new university.

Prof Muller said there would also be preparations made to house students while the development work was being carried out, while the name of the new college was yet to be decided.

Nick Foster, executive director of Suffolk Learning and Skills Council, said: “We will consider an application from Suffolk College for a complete rebuild or a partial rebuild.

“Under normal guidelines, we would give capital support of around 35%. The project has to meet certain requirements and could get more, or less, money depending on financial state of the college, the extent of the project and the general way in which further education is developing.”

James Hehir, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “These plans are very exciting.

“The two institutions will be split, but would share common facilities on the site. We are working together to see it happen.”

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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