University attracting local students

SUFFOLK's university is set for a surge in new applications with a rising number of students opting to stay local, it has emerged.

Lizzie Parry

SUFFOLK's university is set for a surge in new applications with a rising number of students opting to stay local, it has emerged.

With hard-up families struggling to send youngsters away to university due to the economic downturn, interest in the county's new Higher Education establishment has soared.

College bosses hope the new facilities - including the flagship University Campus Suffolk (UCS) building on Ipswich waterfront - will convince more local students to stay in Suffolk, reversing the “brain drain” from the county that has caused concern among business and education leaders in the past.

With the deadline for UCAS applications closing last week, early indications suggest that the next yearly intake will beat last year's total of 3,346 full-time students - and much of the interest has been from within Suffolk.

It comes as UCS unveiled the second phase of its major campus development in Ipswich yesterday.

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Caroline Askew, UCS spokeswoman, said the admissions department was busy processing applications and hoped the results would show a surge in interest when the results are available in a few weeks.

“We have seen a large number of visitors and enquiries about UCS and there have definitely been more people taking tours of the building on open days,” she said.

“Our open day in September was the biggest one we have ever had. Having the new building has been a really positive move giving us a physical presence in Ipswich.

“We are really hoping for an increase in applications, we do offer a number of vocational work-based courses such as the health courses, nursing and midwifery, which are linked in with the industries hopefully not as affected by the credit crunch.”

She said that the rise of UCS - which incorporates campuses in Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft and Otley - may encourage local people to enrol on courses they would not have otherwise considered.

“It is expensive to move away and we hope to maintain local students who won't have to travel and can save money by living at home,” Miss Askew said.

Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for young people's services at Suffolk County Council, said: “This is a great opportunity for students to take advantage of what's on offer locally - both at the university and Suffolk New College.

“The courses at the university are building up and there are lots of opportunities for students in growth areas - it is a big boost for the county.”

Despite the UCAS applications deadline passing, UCS said applications for their courses will remain open until the last minute.

Miss Askew said: “The UCAS deadline is really to encourage those students doing A-levels but we have a large number of mature students, part time courses and students looking to expand their skills base and so we will be taking applications right up until the day courses start.

“We understand people's needs and circumstances change and so we will do our best to accommodate people.

“Really competitive courses, such as midwifery, are likely to be full fairly quickly and with most health courses we have to be stricter with numbers because of placements students undertake during the course.

“But with other popular courses, film and media studies and English for example, we can be slightly more flexible with the number of places available.”