Government lines up money for six new university towns, but 17 areas lose out

Delight as Somerset, Crawley, Milton Keynes, Swindon, Thurrock and the Wirral are chosen to receive funding for campuses

October 7, 2009

Milton Keynes, Swindon and Crawley are among six areas chosen by funding chiefs to receive money to improve regional higher education provision.

The Government’s University Challenge scheme, unveiled last year, aims to create university towns in parts of the country where provision is lacking.

Regions were invited to bid for cash from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Of 23 proposals submitted, six have been successful: Somerset, Crawley, Milton Keynes, Swindon, Thurrock and the Wirral. Funding for these will be confirmed in the 2011-14 spending review period.

The lead institution for the Milton Keynes bid was the University of Bedfordshire, which already runs the University Centre Milton Keynes campus in the city, offering foundation degrees and postgraduate certificates in education.

Les Ebdon, the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire, said he was delighted that the proposal had been accepted.

He said the campus, which opened in September last year, was “a fine example of a successful and longstanding initiative in Milton Keynes to deliver local, high-quality higher education provision”.

He added: “Milton Keynes is an increasingly important regional economy positioned for substantial further growth. It has a pressing need for a higher education institution which can upskill and equip the local workforce for these challenges and new opportunities.”

Seventeen proposals were rejected by Hefce, including bids from Wakefield, Hertfordshire and Aylesbury.

The proposals were dismissed on grounds ranging from insufficient evidence of demand to the proximity of existing higher education provision, uncertainty over population growth and a failure to demonstrate a strong partnership between universities and colleges making the bid.

Bucks New University led the unsuccessful bid to develop a campus in Aylesbury.

Susan Jones, director of enterprise, said the university had hoped to expand Aylesbury Vale University Centre, which opened in 2007.

She said the university remained committed to developing higher education in the Aylesbury area and would focus on providing support for small businesses and entrepreneurs through its existing centre.

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