To fulfil Suffolk's cherished dream of having its own university, its fairy godmothers are seeking a multi-talented mover and shaker to set the project on track. Pat Leon provides a progress report
Suffolk has long wished for a university to call its own but to little avail, despite appeals to successive governments. Now two fairy godmothers in the shape of the universities of Essex and East Anglia (Norfolk) have come to the aid of England's most sparsely populated county.
Essex and UEA, together with Ipswich's Suffolk College, are lobbying to build a £190 million University Campus Suffolk to offer further and higher education on the banks of the River Orwell as well as in rural satellite locations. The project manager post is advertised in The Times Higher this week.
Richard Lister, director of external relations at the University of Essex, says: "This is an entirely new kind of venture. Two universities are coming together to jointly own a higher education facility in a third place. If we go ahead, there'll be new buildings on the waterfront that will aid regeneration of Ipswich. Lincoln campus is probably the nearest architectural equivalent."
A small project planning group has worked up an outline bid for the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and the project manager's job will be to fill in the details.
"It's quite complicated because as well as the higher education aspects there is the question of the regeneration of the further education site," Lister says.
But it will be an interesting job. "The right person will have freedom of movement. They'll have to talk to the press, liaise with partners and win over the hearts and minds of stakeholders, which include Hefce, the Learning and Skills Council, the borough and county councils and the East of England Development Agency," Lister says.
The successful applicant is expected, in conjunction with stakeholders, to develop a full academic, business, estates and marketing plan. "One difficulty will be to get all the stakeholders to play a role at the right time," Lister says.
UEA and Suffolk College have been partners in the provision of higher education in Ipswich since 1992, but this is Colchester-based Essex university's first venture north of the county. Essex owns the E15 acting school in Loughton and is about to build university premises in Southend, where it validates degrees for South East Essex College. It also validates degrees for Writtle College. UEA validates degrees at Otley College, Ipswich, and Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in North London.
The consortium is looking for someone who has a broad knowledge of higher education. "Applicants do not have to be 100 per cent steeped in higher education. They don't even have to know Suffolk that well or be an Ipswich Town or Norwich City fan, but they need to have the ability to grasp a broad range of issues and see the potential," Lister says.