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University of Cornwall News

30th October 1997

The following article appeared in today's The Cornishman:

University support growing by the day says MP

By Joyce Channon
Chief Reporter

THOUSANDS of people from all over Cornwall have signed MP Andrew George's petition in support of the campaign to get a University College in Cornwall.

Support, said Mr. George on Tuesday, is growing by the day and he remains determined to lobby Prime Minister, Tony Blair, despite his demand for some clarification of the Government's position on the initiative.

Petition [Thumbnail]
Petition gif file
Today, The Cornishman publishes the petition (left), which you can sign. Please encourage others to sign as well and then return the petition to our offices at Parade Street, Penzance.

Doubts have been cast following a letter drafted by Angela George in the Heritage Department, which claimed that the current level of higher education facilities in Cornwall is "satisfactory."

The letter, a copy of which was handed to Mr. George at the weekend, states: "The Government considers that while the provision of higher education facilities might be improved, the Cornish campus of Plymouth University; Falmouth College of Arts; the College of St Mark and St. John and the Open University, offer a satisfactory level of provision."

Her comments, which are being challenged both by the MP and by the Vice-Chancellor of Exeter University, Sir Geoffrey Holland, have caused a furore.

Mr George has now demanded that Heritage Secretary, Chris Smith, makes clear on what authority his civil servant was allowed to make these remarks.

He said: "I am disappointed that a Government Department has made such a damning statement, apparently dismissing the need for a Cornish initiative.

"I have written to Mr. Smith to clarify the Government's view on the Cornwall University campus initiative."

The MP revealed that his petition had already received thousands of signatures and support was growing daily.

"There is clearly a huge demand for the initiative and I want to know what stories are circulating within Government departments which have resulted in this unacceptable statement."

In his letter to Mr. Smith, Mr. George says: "I would not wish to challenge my namesake, but I would like to discover on what authority Angela George had for making this statement; in what form the Government came to this view; how it squares with the statements and actions of other Government ministers - and on what basis of fact such a judgement could be based.

"I am working with local community groups who are desperate to see this initiative get off the ground.

"Many feel that West Cornwall can no longer suffer the shocks of increasing unemployment and the experience of continually being on the bottom of the country's earnings league table.

"The letter from your Millennium Unit will undermine this initiative and I would be grateful if you would clarify the Government's view in this regard."

Sir Geoffrey Holland, who has already gained support for the Cornwall initiative from Education Secretary, David Blunkett, yesterday echoed the MP's sentiments. Angela George's statement regarding the level of further education provision in Cornwall, could not, he stressed, go unchallenged.

"Last year more than 6,000 young people left the county to continue their education elsewhere. This is not a satisfactory situation."

He praised Mr. George's efforts to push the petition forward and reiterated that the assurance remained that there was up to £l0m in the European 5b programme (for economic regeneration) for the initiative.

"Despite efforts by some to undermine the university initiative, the Euro-money is there and it is available," the Vice-Chancellor emphasised.

Behind the scenes, the initiative, said Sir Geoffrey "inexorably moves towards the February deadline."

The option on the purchase of the Trereife site at Penzance expires at the end of January, and in the meantime the question of matching funding continues to be addressed.

"This has always been a struggle," he said.

"We are currently looking at finances from a major civil engineering firm and are pursuing this with them and discussing details.

"We are also having discussions with friends and associates of the Camborne School of Mines and mining companies in a bid to raise money towards the total cost of the project.

"And at Pool," he added, "we are looking at what can be done with the site the CSM is on, and what can be done to provide jobs there to replace the jobs that will go.

Copyright © Cornish Weekly Newspapers Ltd 1997

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