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The following articles appeared in today's Western Morning News:
Campus Cornwall's plight can 'unite all'
By David Green
EXETER University's Vice-Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Holland, insisted yesterday that the Millennium Commission's refusal to grant funding to a campus for Cornwall did not mean the death of the project.
Supporters are rallying around to plan the next step, but any chance of getting the £80-million campus at Penzance built in one go seems now to have disappeared for good.
The campus, to have been sited in the grounds of Trereife House, would have pumped £20 million a year into the economy of West Cornwall as well as creating over 500 new jobs. Sir Geoffrey, who has been the driving force for the project, said he was angered as well as disappointed by the Commission's rejection of an application for £33 million.
St Ives MP Andrew George, whose constituency includes Penzance, and Cornwall's Euro MP Robin Teverson, expressed equal shock at the dismissal of such an important project for the county's future.
In the Commission's view, the campus should be funded by the Government as part of the mainstream education programme yet, said Sir Geoffrey, they had approved a similar sized grant for a university in the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
He simply could not understand the other reason for refusal, that a university campus would not be of sufficient benefit for the whole community.
Petitions signed by 20,000 people supporting the project, and a letter of endorsement signed by every council leader in Cornwall, had been sent to the Commission to back the university's bid.
"I think it is a quite amazing decision, and I believe the people of Cornwall are justified in being very angry. We now have to sit down and take stock, but this does not mean the death of the project though we cannot go ahead with a grand slam do-everything-at-once scheme."
Sir Geoffrey added: "I believe this reverse will bring the whole of Cornwall together even more powerfully behind the project. We now have to get together to move the project forward, though at a slower timescale."
Mr George has tabled a parliamentary question to Education Secretary David Blunkett, seeking his department's support for the campus.
"There would be no better way for us to celebrate the Millennium in Cornwall than to see the re-establishment of a Cornish university," said Mr George. The Commission should be doing more to redistribute wealth from rich areas like London to poor areas like Cornwall, but this is not happening."
Mr Teverson said the Commission's decision put the good chance European funding under threat. "There is a risk that Europe will lose interest once it sees that the project's own Government isn't backing it."
Cornwall loses in this lottery
We all know that playing the National Lottery is a huge game of chance. But most of us probably didn't realise that applying for a lottery grant through the Millennium Commission is just as much of a gamble.
Yet that is the only conclusion one can draw from the decision this week by the Commission to refuse to help finance a University for Cornwall.
There was widespread shock and disbelief yesterday that the project was turned down for a Millennium grant, especially when the reasoning behind the decision was revealed.
The University, which will now have to be built piecemeal instead of in one go, will enormously benefit not just the students who attend it but the whole county of Cornwall.
It will be a fitting way to mark the dawning of the 21st century and a monument to the future, not the past, in an area of Britain that desperately needs some help.
University projects, most notably in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, have been given lottery grant aid in the past, so the precedent for an educational project qualifying was not in question.
Yet the Commissioners apparently ruled out Cornwall's application because they believed the campus should be funded by Government as part of its mainstream education programme.
With the Labour government tied to the tight spending plan drawn up by the previous Government, everyone knows there is precious little chance of that happening.
The Commissioners also expressed the view that the project would not be of sufficient benefit to the whole community to justify lottery funding.
Try telling that to the 20,000 people who signed petitions in support of the project.
Try telling it to the leaders of every council in Cornwall who endorsed the university because they saw the benefits it would bring to the whole country [sic].
And try telling it to the thousands of schoolchildren across Cornwall who added their voices to the calls for a university so they could have the choice of studying in their home county, instead of moving away.
Sir Geoffrey Holland, the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, which is behind the plan for the University for Cornwall, spoke for many yesterday when he said he was angered by the Commission's decision.
And St Ives MP Andrew George, in whose constituency the university is planned, was right to warn that many Cornish people would be angry as well.
"I think it is a quite amazing decision and I believe the people of Cornwall are justified in being very angry," he told the WMN yesterday.
The Commission is always careful to stress that it weighs up each application for grant aid separately and is not influenced by decisions made about other projects nearby.
Yet the suspicion in Cornwall today will be quite different.
People will suspect that because a grant has already been made to the Eden project near St Austell there is no more lottery cash in the pot for Cornwall.
Of course the Eden project - a huge greenhouse stocked with plants from around the world - is deserving of its grant. Building a world class tourist attraction like that will be of enormous economic benefit to Cornwall.
But the university project was just as deserving and the excuses used as to why it did not qualify for a grant are inadequate.
Too many questionable projects that appear to have little wide appeal successively apply for lottery funding.
The University was a genuinely deserving cause which would have benefited an enormous number of people.
It must still go ahead despite this setback, with European funding and support from the Department for Education.
Cornwall has been let down this week by the Millenium Commission. It must not be let down by the Government and the EU.
Copyright © Western Morning News 1997
|10th November 1999
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