Essex bid to grow beside the seaside

January 28, 2000

A multi-million pound business plan to support 1,500 new higher education students in Southend went before funding chiefs this week.

The University of Essex and South East Essex College have joined together to launch the bid, which proposes a major expansion in higher education in Essex over the next five years.

It will involve acquiring about 100 extra staff and a new building, expected to cost at least Pounds 40 million, in the centre of Southend.

Ivor Crewe, vice-chancellor of Essex University, said: "The proportion taking up higher education from south Essex is considerably below average, even taking into account the social and economic background of the students. There is a lot of untapped demand."

The bid is to provide vocationally oriented degrees in computer science and information technology, business and management with a special interest in transport and leisure, media technology and subjects related to the social and caring professions.

Professor Crewe said Southend could also be at the forefront of providing the two-year qualifications or foundation degrees that the government is considering introducing.

South East Essex College already teaches more than 350 higher education students on a range of higher national diplomas, honours degree courses in media production technology and multimedia, and the first year of degree programmes.

Tony Pitcher, director of South East Essex College, said all of its higher education courses had been fully taken up this year. If the proposals are approved by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the universities of North London and Greenwich, which validate the programmes, will withdraw in favour of Essex.

Essex University degrees will be taught at the college from this October and the planned expansion in student numbers will begin the following year.

The university and college partnership is also looking for support from HEFCE for a new building on college land in the centre of Southend, to be completed in the next two years.

As the property of a further education college, this would also need support from the Further Education Funding Council.

A decision from HEFCE on the bids is expected within the next three months.

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