Paving the way to lure a uni to town
COUNCILLORS could today take a step closer to enticing a university to the town if they approve a £7m University Technical College.
The Government-funded UTC, which will be discussed at tonight’s special cabinet meeting, will offer diplomas, GCSEs and A-levels in subjects likely to be geared towards engineering, and will cater for up to 800 students but will not offer degree level qualifications.
A UTC is a new concept, with the first – called the JCB Academy – being set up last year in Staffordshire .
Now the Government is aiming to have 24 such institutions opened by 2014.
To qualify for funding, they must be backed by an existing university – in the case of Swindon this would be Oxford Brookes.
Professors from Oxford Brookes University will help with the teaching and drawing up the curriculum, alongside staff from Swindon College.
They will also have to attract big-name businesses to support the scheme, such asHonda for example.
Councillor Dale Heenan, cabinet member for planning, said it would help pave the way for a ‘proper’ university in years to come.
“There have been many false dawns but approving a UTC will be the first step in doing something positive,” he said.
“This is much more geared towards the vocational side of things.
“Getting a proper university here will take a number of years – probably as much as five years.
“This will be the starting point for it.
“We don’t have a university college anywhere like this in the area.”
Greendown’s headteacher, Clive Zimmerman, said the concept was a good one but added the he felt it would need to be monitored carefully.
He said: “They are usually highly selective – they’re for something like engineering as a way of meeting the shortfall of skills we have, and I think the concept isn’t a bad one.
“I think I’m right in saying that whereas at the moment colleges start at 16, these start at 14.
“That’s the only kind of thing I would want to make sure is looked at very carefully so that we don’t end up creating any knock-on problems.”