Govt pledges university push

The government is seeking to accelerate its development programme for new centres of higher education in England.

A paper published today by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) calls for towns and cities to bid for opportunities to become new higher education centres.

It says up to 10,000 student places could be created from the 20 new centres it expects to open or agree to in the next six years.

The government is keen to encourage a quickening of its initial programme, which has seen 17 centres open since 2003.

Skills secretary John Denham said: “I want to build on the successes of the last few years which have seen new centres of higher education transforming local economies and the lives of local people.

“We must learn from these success stories and act on the growing evidence that locally based projects play a key role in helping local areas and people realise their potential.”

The government believes universities provide a major boost to towns and cities. As well as contributing to boosting Britain’s skills they drive economic regeneration, create jobs and stimulate entrepreneurship, it says.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has £150 million set aside for strategic development by the comprehensive spending review.

Its chief executive, David Eastwood, said today’s consultation would help it identify areas where the funds will make the biggest difference.

“Such developments can have a profound impact on economic regeneration as well as transforming the lives of students with no previous experience of higher education,” he commented.