Greens plan college

February 26, 1999

The Green Party has proposed the establishment of a University of Blackpool to siphon off students from nearby Manchester and help smooth out the seasonal nature of the seaside town's economy.

The party believes that a university could inject Pounds 20 million annually into the town's economy, increasing disposable income by about Pounds 12 million.

Green Party defence spokesman Spencer Fitz Gibbon said that higher education student numbers were likely to grow in the town, but there was a general shortage of institutions offering the full range of further and higher education facilities in the northwest region.

"There is a strong argument for creating new institutions, rather than merely expanding the already large ones operating in and around Manchester," Mr Fitz Gibbon said.

Blackpool is an ideal location for a new university because it would help the town balance its thriving summer economy with autumn, winter and spring income from a student economy. The town could easily absorb large numbers of students without adverse impact on the lives of residents, Mr Fitz Gibbon said.

The party estimates that from launch in 2000, the university could service 10,000 students by 2006.

According to Mr Fitz Gibbon, with such a student population, "it would be reasonable to assume it could achieve an annual income of Pounds 40 million".

The new university would be a "pioneering model of ecological design" and a centre of academic excellence in environmental fields and sustainable design. But Mr Fitz Gibbon added: "We have no desire to control the scope and scale of the curriculum, but feel strongly that there is a demand for a centre of excellence in ecology and environment research, teaching and practice.

Ultimately, the plan would require the agreement of central government, but if the local authority and colleges think it is a good idea, we would be confident of making progress. We are trying to obtain their responses to the idea."

A spokesperson for the University of Manchester said it had not seen details of the proposal but added: "As the oldest university in the northwest of England, we have over the past 150 years seen the birth of six universities in the region. We welcomed their creation and managed to forge worthwhile partnerships with them all."

The plan has been developed jointly by Mr Fitz Gibbon and the Green Party's transport and regions spokesman, John Whitelegg, former head of geography at Lancaster University and a part-time lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University.

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