(Photograph) - An electronic library spanning hundreds of miles could soon allow some of Britain's most cut-off communities to key into higher education, according to Labour MP Dale Campbell-Savours, who this week launched a document containing his proposals for a University of the Lakes.
It aims to stem the region's brain drain and encourage locals to explore their full potential.
Mr Campbell-Savours, MP for Workington, said that the Lake District's sparsely-inhabited central mountain massif militates against a single-site university. "The electronic library was the glue we needed to make it work."
His lengthy report, compiled over four years, suggests tapping into existing expertise to establish dispersed specialist faculties, and to address specific needs of sectors of the local economy. Information technology would allow communication between them and an administrative headquarters at a school of ecological science - a sustainable development in the Lake District National Park. The plan would also involve Westlakes Research Institute as a possible site for a school of energy and environmental studies. The institute was set up to use research built up at the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.
A liberal arts school could be based at Ambleside and other satellites might include the Carlisle campus of the University of Northumbria and local further education colleges. The project might take 25 years to complete.
His plan has already drawn fire from other universities in the area. Tony Dickson, pro vice chancellor for development at the University of Northumbria, said: "The new proposals do not address how the University of the Lakes will be funded - the cost of providing a quality university is enormous. " But a spokesman for the University of Lancaster, which includes Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside: "There is under-provision and the University of the Lakes offers a possible solution."