Expansion plans at two institutions contrast with gloom at another
Kingston University is planning to move into a prestigious local landmark building as part of a reshaping and expansion initiative.
Kingston's board of governors has given the go-ahead to a business plan that would see the university buy County Hall, currently home to Surrey County Council.
Although a price is yet to be fixed, the council has agreed in principle to sell the building to Kingston. The move could see the university transformed, with more prestigious headquarters and scope for new developments.
Reg Davis, pro vice-chancellor for estates at Kingston, said consultants had been called in to analyse the university's property in the light of its predicted development. It was advised that the upkeep of its present buildings, taking into account the rate of student growth, was likely to be £40 million over the next decade.
Professor Davis said: "The consultants told us that acquiring County Hall would not only give the university more of a presence in Kingston but could also be key to our future competitiveness."
Ken Hopkins, pro vice-chancellor for strategic development and the coordinator of what has been dubbed the "new university project", said the site would act as a catalyst for the university to transform its internal working.
He said: "As well as being a superb location in which to work and study, the complex will make a significant impact on Kingston's academic and physical development.
"It will provide an opportunity to review the present structure and stimulate new ways of working to help keep Kingston at the forefront of higher education."
Surrey County Council and Kingston Borough Council have welcomed the plans.
Derek Osbourne, leader of Kingston council, said: "[The university] is one of the town's key cultural and economic drivers, so it makes sense for it to occupy a landmark building in the very heart of Kingston."
If the purchase is finalised, staff and students are expected to move to the complex in 2007.
Kingston is also moving ahead with plans to create an institute of art and design in south London in collaboration with Wimbledon School of Art.
Peter Scott, vice-chancellor of Kingston, and Rod Bugg, principal of Wimbledon, are due to present an outline proposal and business case for collaboration to their respective governing bodies this month.
The proposed institute will combine the resources of the art school and the university's faculty of art, design and music. But while the school and the university will share and coordinate their strategic plan for the institute, the proposal is not to merge the two institutions.
Professor Scott said: "I see the new institute as creating a powerful art and design institute in south London with the self-confidence and critical mass to hold its own with other central players in the capital, such as the London Institute [soon to be the University of the Arts] and the Royal College of Art."