University plan gets green light

A UNIVERSITY could be operational in Suffolk within three years after the long-awaited project won a £15million cash boost.National education chiefs confirmed the grant yesterday, which will kick-start the project and should eventually see a new campus built in Ipswich.

A UNIVERSITY could be operational in Suffolk within three years after the long-awaited project won a £15million cash boost.

National education chiefs confirmed the grant yesterday, which will kick-start the project and should eventually see a new campus built in Ipswich.

University Campus Suffolk (UCS), backed by the University of Essex and University of East Anglia, put forward a bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in December 2004.

UCS project manager Carol Macaskill said the HEFCE grant was brilliant news.

She said: "Today's announcement is the culmination of 18 months of hard work and concerted effort by all those involved.

"We are delighted that this important milestone in bringing a university campus to the county has been passed. This is the strongest signal yet that a university in Suffolk will become a reality."

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Ms Macaskill said the next stage of the project is to find £75 million to build the campus in Ipswich.

She said: "The immediate task now is to find the money for phase one of the project and to continue to develop the curriculum that will meet the needs of students and employers."

UCS is expected to use land next to Suffolk College and a plot set aside at Ipswich Waterfront, creating a new Ipswich 'education quarter'.

The cash needed for phase one, which will include building student accommodation in Ipswich, is expected to come from private sector business investment. The East of England Development Agency, Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council have also pledged contributions.

Ipswich MP Chris Mole welcomed yesterday's announcement.

He said: "This is the best news that Ipswich could possibly receive. University Campus Suffolk will help business grow locally in an increasingly competitive world."

Project leaders have estimated the UCS will be worth about £50million a year to the local economy.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce president Andy Rayner said: "This announcement is very good news. A university campus is long overdue for Suffolk and we will be supporting UCS wherever possible."

He said the project would benefit the economy by developing its curriculum to meet the need of business such as the BT research centre at Adastral Park and the Port of Felixstowe.

He said employers would benefit from a good skill base developed in Suffolk.

He added: "Students often make a life for themselves in the area where they studied. You tend to continue your progression in that area.

"At the moment this is a drain on Suffolk, UCS will bring back skilled people into the county."

Mr Rayner said the student influx brought about by the UCS project will create economic opportunities in Ipswich.

He said: "I wouldn't go as far to say there will be an economic boom but students will undoubtedly come with money in their pocket. It has got to be good for the local economy."

Restaurants, bars, retail and landlords are among those expected to benefit from the increase in student numbers.

UCS will include the Ipswich campus and a number of linked centres in other Suffolk towns. This county-wide campus will be known as the Suffolk Learning Centres.

It is hoped the first students will be taught in the new facilities from September 2007.

The total cost of the scheme is expected to be £150 million over ten years.

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