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The following articles appeared in the Western Morning News on the 24th and The Cornishman on the 25th:
Western Morning News - 24th June 1998
Battle on for a proper university
THROUGHOUT the debate on the economic ills of Cornwall led by Prince Charles on Monday, the need for a university recurred time and again.
It is no exaggeration to say that it is absolutely crucial to the future of Cornwall; pivotal to attempts to regenerate the economically-battered Duchy. The truth is that far too big a majority of the youth of Cornwall sees no future in its own county.
That's as damaging as it is depressing.
The brightest youngsters leave Cornwall to go to university and they don't come back. They see career prospects as very poor to non-existent.
Industrialists, striving to carve out a new future for Cornwall in modern hi-tech businesses (and in several cases succeeding very impressively) are terribly frustrated by this "brain drain".
A University of Cornwall, the subject of billions of words in recent years but not yet one brick, would be a hugely effective catalyst for regeneration. The mere presence of a campus would raise the national and international status of Cornwall, and that in itself would bring hugely beneficial rewards.
Cornish youngsters who want to pursue their academic goals in their own county could do so and bright youngsters from other parts of the UK and abroad could be tempted down to the West-country.
It is well known that a highly significant percentage of students opt for staying in the area in which they went to university, adding their talents and energies for the good of their hosts.
The chemistry afforded by the presence of a university brings so many benefits to business, to the culture and to the fabric. The spin-offs for the local economy can be hugely important.
But all that is preaching to the converted. It's long been recognised that Cornwall needs and deserves its own university.
There was also majority agreement at that session with Prince Charles, who publicly backed Cornwall's case for a university, that it should be sited in the Camborne-Redruth area - identified as the fulcrum for regeneration.
If the ambitions articulated at that meeting were fulfilled, the University of Cornwall would sit with a World Heritage Centre based on historic mining sites, new modern business parks and affordable housing - the whole an exciting "phoenix" rising from the ashes of 100 acres of dereliction.
There was also a buzz around those gathering for the prince's visit that a Government announcement on further education in Cornwall was imminent.
Yesterday, we got that announcement. The Government press release spoke of "an innovative partnership project designed to boost Cornwall's higher education provision for the next millennium".
And politicians accuse journalists of hype!
To say that description of what Richard Caborn, Minister for the Regions, was actually delivering was "over the top" is an understatement.
The partnership between the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth and Falmouth College of Arts to provide additional courses and new facilities under the banner of "the Combined Universities in Cornwall" is a positive move in the right direction and it would be churlish not to welcome the initiative.
But it is only a start and it remains light years away from what Cornwall needs - its own university standing on its own campus.
Mr Caborn's announcement was, for us, reminiscent of the day the Tories, amid much publicity hype, sent David Curry - then Minister for the South West - down here to unveil "the Devon Expressway".
The Westcountry still didn't have a motorway beyond the end of the M5 but the old dual carriageway was being repackaged so as to tell the rest of the world that it wasn't a cart track.
Mr. Curry brought no money - beyond the paltry cost of a couple of new road signs - but we were all supposed to be grateful that his government was totally committed to sorting out Devon and Cornwall's infrastructure problems. The CUC, as it is to be unattractively known, has more substance than the Devon Expressway, but it's an innovation from the same shoestring stable.
We hope campaigners for a proper University of Cornwall will not let this compromise deflect them from their crusade because only when it's here in name, bricks and mortar can it justifiably be claimed that the Duchy has "higher education provision for the next millennium".
United front boosts hopes for university
Minister cheers partnership for new education opportunities for the young
A NEW PARTNERSHIP designed to boost higher education opportunities for young people in Cornwall was given an enthusiastic welcome yesterday at Truro County Hall.
After years of bickering over the ill-fated University of Cornwall campus project at Penzance, college and council leaders presented a united front for Regions Minister Richard Caborn.
The partnership, to be known as the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC), has been created by the University of Exeter, the University of Plymouth and the Falmouth College of Arts.
Voicing support for the initiative were the principals of Penwith, Truro, St Austell and Cornwall Colleges who said it could lead to Cornwall developing its own university as a key component of the county's economic regeneration.
The three partners have come together to set up a phased development of additional courses available from current higher education providers in Cornwall and to develop new facilities.
These would capitalise on the established clusters of higher education at Pool, between Redruth and Camborne and at Falmouth. rather than pursue the dream of developing a green field site. But how far this goes depends on Cornwall gaining Objective 1 status to supply the capital for such projects, and Higher Education Funding Council revenue to meet extra running costs.
'As today's vision becomes reality, Cornwall will feel the benefit' - Regions Minister Richard Caborn
Government Minister Mr Caborn, who steered clear of giving any Government financial commitment to this partnership, merely praised the positive progress being made. He said: "Everyone is now working together in a dynamic - and possibly unique collaborative venture.
"As today's vision becomes reality, Cornwall will feel the benefit. Local people will have better access to educational opportunities, and local businesses can access academia to help them compete and innovate."
The aims of the partnership are:
- To improve the quality and range of higher education teaching and research at all levels in Cornwall;
- To enable more people to pursue higher education in Cornwall, and widen access to opportunities of all kinds;
- To develop centres of specialist expertise and research which will attract students, partners and customers from elsewhere;
- To use academic expertise to help local business and inward investors with specialist support and to meet their commercial and professional needs.
Professor Alan Livingstone, principal of Falmouth College of Arts, said: "It is a major step forward and I am confident that this will create more opportunities for the people of Cornwall.
"The partnership is trying to combine two key priorities identified by the Government: Regionalisation and collaboration.
"The Government is saying that institutions of all types, particularly educational institutions, have to learn to work together for the greater good of their communities.
"What we are trying to do is to increase the opportunities for higher education at university level in Cornwall and contribute to the county's economic, cultural and social regeneration." Falmouth-Camborne MP Candy Atherton said: "I am absolutely delighted. A lot of work has been put in over many months to bring this together.
"We need to expand higher education and further education right across Cornwall by providing new courses and this partnership will achieve that." North Cornwall MP Paul Tyler said: "This is the first time I can recall a Government Minister coming to Cornwall and stating that he will back an improvement in the provision of higher education in Cornwall. But now we have to succeed in getting Objective 1 status to enable us to draw down the capital to fund a development programme. If we don't get it, I fear this could wither on the vine."
CITY WINS IN FIGHT FOR SPECIAL FUNDING
PLYMOUTH yesterday won hundreds of thousands of pounds in extra money to improve education - but a bid for similar money for West Cornwall failed.
Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett announced that Plymouth and Weston-super-Mare would both become Education Action Zones and share £6 million. But education leaders and politicians representing Camborne-Redruth and Pool were despondent after their bid for EAZ status failed.
A total of 25 EAZs have been created nationwide to drive up standards in traditionally under-performing areas. Each zone will run for three years and have a budget of £l million per year, of which £250,000 will be funded by private businesses in the area, with the remaining £750,000 made up by the Government.
"The objective is simple - that schools in the South West should provide as good an education as elsewhere," said Mr Blunkett yesterday. "These zones are testbeds for innovation, and each one is full of fresh and energetic ideas."
The Plymouth zone will come into operation in January 1999, and includes 20 schools - Parkside Comprehensive, Tamarside Community College, Mill Ford and Mount Tamar special schools, and 16 primary schools. Private sector supporters in Plymouth will include Brittany Ferries, British Telecom and The Plymouth 2000 Partnership. The initiative aims to raise the literacy rate amongst Plymouth's 11-year-olds from its current 44% to 70%. It also aims for a 90% attendance rate across all the area's schools. Innovations will include homework clubs, breakfast clubs, holiday schemes, extended hours and greater parental and community involvement.
Copyright © Western Morning News Company 1998
The Cornishman - 25th June 1998
Second best option on university
PROPOSALS launched this week for the Combined Universities of Cornwall (see story this page) could be regarded by the cynical as a second best option landed on the county by opposing factions fighting for a slice of the higher education cake.
To be certain what is proposed will not give the county the single landmark scheme such as that which was proposed at Trereife and which promised high hopes of employment and economic regeneration, not only for Penwith but for the county at large.
From where we sit, that scheme shuddered to a halt when we failed to get Millennium funding for it and there is a strong belief in these parts that the bid failed because there were some in the county who failed to unite behind it, or indeed worse, actively worked against it.
Be that as it may, what we now seem to be offered is little more than a compromise, a number of courses bolted onto those at existing educational institutions in the county with a number of extra facilities provided here and there.
And, hey presto, with the wave of the magic wand we have the Combined Universities for Cornwall supported and promoted by the Universities of Exeter, Plymouth and Falmouth College of Art.
But it will not wash with students seeking a traditional route of study on a university campus of national and international stature and if it merely seeks to extend distance learning opportunities and provide university education via the organic growth model, it will not, as MP Andrew George points out, adequately meet Cornwall's needs.
It may be realistically that the current proposals are the best that can be achieved.
If that is so then they deserve support, but if the people of Cornwall truly believe that the county needs and deserves a purpose built university, we should tell those backing this 'second best' option to think again.
Boost for county's hopes of
Tireless campaigner slams proposals as 'the cheap option'
SIR Geoffrey Holland, the driving force behind the campaign to bring a University for Cornwall to Penzance, has confirmed that he will be joining forces with two other higher education institutions to create a new educational partnership in Cornwall.
He gave his commitment on Tuesday after Minister for the Regions, Richard Cabom, announced details of a new partnership project designed to boost the county's higher education provision for the next millennium.
The partnership, to be known as CUC - the Combined Universities in Cornwall - has been created by the University of Exeter, the University of Plymouth and Falmouth College of Arts.
Co-inciding with the visit to Cornwall of the Minister, Sir Geoffrey announced that he will be joining forces with the Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth University and the the Principal of Falmouth College to create a project team.
The news led St Ives MP, Andrew George to call upon the many thousands of people who supported the Penzance-based initiative to resist criticism of any initiative on a site in another district.
He said: "Although it may be galling for some to know that some of those who worked hard to undermine the Penzance initiative will be benefiting from a change of direction, now is an opportunity for us all to work together for the good of Cornwall as a whole. I have," he emphasised, "great faith in the people of Penwith to demonstrate just how big hearted and magnanimous they are."
The MP, who said he was determined that the initiative did not die with the failure to develop at Penzance, added that he would be seeking Parliamentary support to ensure that a university campus becomes a reality early in the 21st century.
Local councillor, John Payne, a major campaigner for the Penzance University project, yesterday expressed disappointment at the creation of a new partnership which he described as "a cheap option."
"This will be a cobbling together of existing provision and will not have the impact of a single site which is vital to economic regeneration. This is second best. It won't bring in outside companies and have such an impact on research and development base that modern companies need and will not encourage companies to relocate to Cornwall."
The new partnership, he added, would also not create an offspin of jobs.
Although he will be joining forces with his counterparts at Plymouth and Falmouth, Sir Geoffrey has also sent a warning to Richard Caborn that the CUC initiative will not be achieved without the full backing of the Government.
"And this means Government money too," he said. "Let's hope the Minister - who on Tuesday saw for himself the problems that Cornwall faces - listens to the wise words of our university dons, and agrees to help to get their new partnership off the ground."
The partnership will be a phased development of additional courses available from the current Higher Education providers in Cornwall.
Welcoming the partnership, Mr Caborn said: "I have taken a close interest in the discussions on this issue and I am delighted that CUC founder members have made such positive progress.
MP Mr George added: "I have always argued that what matters is that we establish a core university presence in Cornwall and its location is very much secondary. I can anticipate that Mr Caborn will favour supporting an initiative somewhere close to the South Crofty site in response to the disappointment that area has experienced following the closure of the last Cornish tin mine there.
A joint statement issued on behalf of the principals of Cornwall Colleges - Mr Richard Andruszko (Penwith), Mr Jonathan Burnett (Truro College), Dr Alan Stanhope (Cornwall College) and Mr Bill Hill (St Austell College) - said that the principals welcomed the positive statements from Richard Caborn.
The statement said: "The announcement that the Government is minded, not only to invest in Higher Education in Cornwall, but to provide support for the Camborne area, is both timely, and more positive news to move discussions on the University provision for Cornwall, forward.
"That consensus has also been welcomed by the principals, who are enthusiastic to play their part in bringing a university provision to Cornwall. All are convinced of the educational importance of HE, including valuable research facilities, which will contribute significantly to economic regeneration in Cornwall."
*Prince Charles, who visited West Cornwall on Monday, also threw his weight behind a campaign for a University for Cornwall.
Speaking during a tour of the Pall Corporation's factory at Redruth, the Prince told a meeting of business people and others: "The development of higher education and research in the county would immeasurably boost the confidence of young people here, would help to retain their talents in Cornwall and provide them with opportunities in the most specialised skills," he said.
Copyright © Cornish Weekly Newspapers Ltd 1998
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