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Councillors unanimously gave the go ahead to the college’s long-held plans to build a flagship university centre at its Derby Road campus to widen participation in higher-level study.
The college is set to replace an existing single-storey building at the rear of the site, along Nottingham Road, with a modern three-storey facility boasting inspirational teaching and learning space including classrooms, IT suites, study rooms, learning resource centre, 100-seat lecture theatre and science laboratory.
College chiefs say the proposed new and improved Vision University Centre is needed to boost access to higher education (HE) locally.
The college currently has around 500 HE students on courses ranging from HNCs and HNDs to foundation degrees and full-honours degrees. The planned centre would initially accommodate almost 400 extra students – rising to 600 after three years – including advanced apprentices and those studying part-time professional qualifications and short courses.
Final funding approval must now come from the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) infrastructure and investment board in September before construction of the eagerly-awaited centre can begin.
This comes after D2N2 was awarded a £2.6 million contribution towards the scheme from the Government’s £194 million Local Growth Fund, aimed at revitalising local economies over the next six years.
Planning permission is a major condition of the LEP funding, with the remaining £3.9 million coming from the college.
It is hoped building work will start this September, with the centre opening to students in September 2016. The building will boast the same contemporary design as the rest of the campus, following its recent multi-million pound transformation.
Other works include the creation of a single court, multi-use outdoor games area at the rear of the site to improve facilities for students while also extending the college’s community sports provision. Meanwhile, 50 additional car parking spaces will be created by extending one of its on-site car parks.
Principal and chief executive, Dame Asha Khemka, said: “I am absolutely delighted the council has approved our plans to create this inspirational new facility, which will transform educational opportunities for generations to come.
“Since arriving at the college in 2006, it has been my vision and my dream to bring a large-scale, dedicated university centre to the area and make higher education even more accessible to local people; especially to those who do not traditionally aspire to continuing their studies once they leave school or college.
“It’s vital we equip our young people and adults with much-needed higher-level skills and qualifications to succeed in an increasingly-competitive jobs market, and the planned facility will contribute significantly towards this.
“A university centre of this size, scope and huge potential would truly be a first for Mansfield and Ashfield and it’s no less than our communities deserve.
“We now optimistically anticipate final funding approval from the Local Enterprise Partnership so we can quickly turn our ambitions and aspirations into reality.”
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