Higher Education: Come to sunny Cornwall, and feel degrees better

A country house in Penzance could be the location for a new university campus if funding can be found, writes Lucy Hodges

Tourists have long flocked to Cornwall for sandy coves and beaches. From the year 2000, people may also come to study for a degree at a university campus overlooking the sea in Penzance - if Sir Geoffrey Holland, vice- chancellor of Exeter University, has his way.

More than pounds 44m is being sought from the Millennium Commission and the European Union to transform a stunning 75-acre site and country house into the new university. "I am very pleased at the momentum we are generating," says Sir Geoffrey, who lives in St Ives.

If the project gets off the ground, it will mean the first new university campus in Britain for a long time. For Sir Geoffrey and Professor John Inkson, chairman of the Cornwall steering group, it will also represent the realisation of a dream going back several years.

Cornwall is one of only four counties in England that do not have a higher education institution offering teaching and research in a full range of subjects. It boasts the Camborne School of Mines and the Falmouth College of Arts, but these are specialist in character, which means that 2,500 Cornish students leave the county each year to pursue their studies. Most of those never return. There are no research establishments to support industry and commerce, and no chance of attracting students into the county.

At the same time, Cornwall's young population is growing as more and more families move to the South-west for the air and scenery. Yet its economy is disadvantaged, according to Sir Geoffrey. Mining, fishing and agriculture are declining, and tourism is subject to the cold wind of foreign competition. The county has one of the highest unemployment rates in Britain. "We believe we have a responsibility to the economy and region of the South-west," Sir Geoffrey says.

The plan is that an pounds 80m Penzance campus should be part of Exeter University, just as Exeter was founded as a college of London University. It will start small and could eventually expand until it is able to stand on its own feet as the University of Cornwall. Much needs to be done, however, before it gets off the drawing board.

Two weeks ago, officials from the Millennium Commission went to visit the site at Trereife, Penzance, to consider a bid for pounds 22m. They looked at the impressive estate, the 250-year-old listed house and the view over Mount's Bay and studied plans drawn up by architects.

The steering group hopes that another pounds 22m will come from the EU, and that further sums will come from banks, the National Lottery and the private sector to pay for student residences, business start-up units, a conference centre and arts and sports facilities. The aim is to have 5,000 students and 300 staff and to emphasise "lifetime learning" rather than simply the education of a group of 18-year-olds. In other words, schools, colleges and workplaces around the county will hooked up through cyberspace with the core campus. Students will study through distance learning. They will take part-time courses on computer terminals in secondary schools and community centres. The emphasis is on students of all ages being able to study for degrees as well for qualifications that promote their professional development. Potential subjects include business studies, maritime history, heritage, Celtic studies, European languages, information technology, biological and environmental studies and food science.

If the approach sounds like the Open University, it is meant to. The OU is the biggest single provider of higher education in Cornwall and will be given a base on the new campus.

But the crucial question is whether the Higher Education Funding Council will cough up recurrent funding of pounds 6m a year to pay for new students. Sir Geoffrey is pinning his hopes on recent comments made by the council's chief executive, Professor Brian Fender, that universities should be able to bid for extra students on social, economic and geographical grounds. "They're clearly beginning to think very seriously about those parts of the country which don't have a resident core university campus," Sir Geoffrey says.

He is also hoping that the review of higher education by Sir Ron Dearing will help his project along.

Sir Geoffrey, a former permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Employment, is a member of the Dearing committee, so he is in a good position to promote his own ideas, one of which is that access to higher education needs to be expanded further.

At present around a third of the age-group goes into higher education. Sir Geoffrey would like it to be more like 40 to 50 per cent - and he would like some of them to study in Cornwall.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own