University could boost rural communities

By Danielle NuttallRURAL communities look set to benefit from a £160million scheme to build Suffolk's first university if the project gets the go-ahead.

By Danielle Nuttall

RURAL communities look set to benefit from a £160million scheme to build Suffolk's first university if the project gets the go-ahead.

The plan to build a state-of-the-art university campus in Ipswich also includes a proposal to create three or four rural centres, it has been revealed.

It will also build upon existing education and research facilities at BT Exact's Adastral Park laboratories in Martlesham Heath to boost the number of graduates entering the industry.

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Details of the scheme are revealed in a report to Suffolk County Council's executive committee, which will discuss them on October 7.

The report said the new university would cater for at least 7,400 full-time students in the long-term and support 5,000 students in the short-term – three years after the new buildings are complete.

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County councillor Tony Lewis, portfolio holder for children and young people, said: "It's a very exciting opportunity. It's at least 10 years, if not more, that there has been a conceited effort to bring university provision into Suffolk."

He added: "I am particularly pleased that the provision will be for the whole of Suffolk with those stations around the country as well as a base in Ipswich.

"It means we can bring provision to people right across the county and try to stop young people leaving Suffolk.

We have a need in the area for people with those sorts of qualifications. If this comes off, and we have a long way to come yet, it will be excellent.

"Adastral Park is full of graduates and BT in particular is continuously travelling around the country recruiting graduates to go and work there, so it complements the need that exists in Adastral Park and the Ipswich to Cambridge corridor."

The East Anglian Daily Times revealed last week the university plan had won approval from the Government's Higher Education Funding Council.

James Hehir, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, said the project was now the second highest priority on the Government's list of new higher education colleges and looked like it was "going to happen".

Ipswich Borough Council has outlined its role in the ambitious project, which would include the creation of an Education Quarter in the town.

Land covering more than 12 hectares, including the current Suffolk College site, has been earmarked for a "critical mass" of further education and higher education provision in the county.

The proposed site would include the soon-to-be redundant Suffolk County Council buildings and land bought by Ipswich Borough Council on the town's waterfront.

Essex and East Anglia Universities are also at the forefront of talks on the project, which could open its doors in four years.

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