The leader of Rotherham Council is set to mark the start of construction work for the University Centre Rotherham (UCR).
Councillor Chris Read will join representatives of RNN Group, which is behind the £10.5m campus, and the contractors, at the town centre site on Thursday 14 September to dig the first soil.
The centre on Doncaster Gate, which will provide degrees and other higher level and professional qualifications, is due to open in autumn 2018, and is seen as one of the key ‘game changers’ in the Rotherham Plan 2025, a strategic plan to regenerate the town to make it a better place to live, work, invest in or visit.
In Rotherham and in Bassetlaw, only 23% of people have a higher education qualification, compared to the national average of 36%. The centre will offer degrees and degree apprenticeships, accredited by Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Hull.
Councillor Read said: “Having a university centre is a key part of the town’s regeneration and I am delighted that it is going ahead.
”We have a skills gap in Rotherham and that is one thing that is holding the town back. But some of our people are also being held back. If they can get better qualifications they will be able to get better jobs, progress in their careers, increase their income and that can only be good for the town.”
The 3,300m² campus will include teaching rooms, IT suites, exhibition space, open plan learning spaces, a café and social areas. The main contractor is Willmott Dixon.
RNN Group has been working closely with 200 of over 1,000 employers it works with to develop courses that particularly meet a need for the local economy. More than 50 different courses are expected to be running by 2020, including digital, creative, health, technical construction, engineering, and leadership and management. The target is to attract 1,000 additional students over the first five years, with, it’s hoped, many of those students also going on to create new businesses in the town.
Chief Executive of the RNN Group, John Connolly, said: “Providing local access to university education in Rotherham will make a real difference to individuals, businesses and the local economy.
“The University Centre will provide new opportunities for those who might not have considered university as an option in the past. The combination of lower fees and the chance to live at home whilst studying locally will bring Higher Education right into the heart of Rotherham, helping to create a skills and jobs revolution in the town.”
The centre will offer degrees, with tuition fees well below the £9,000 or more charged by many universities, and degree-level apprenticeships, where students can work and earn a wage while they learn.
Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is providing funding of £3.5m towards the centre, with the balance of the investment coming from within the RNN Group, which is the largest college group in South Yorkshire, encompassing Rotherham College, North Notts College, Dearne Valley College, RNN Training and a number of subsidiary organisations.
Nigel Brewster, Vice Chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP said: “This is an important and welcome development which will help both adult students and our regional businesses. We have backed the funding because we know there is a skills gap in the region and we want to help address it.
“This investment in infrastructure will help companies who will be able to recruit skilled workers and grow their businesses, creating more jobs.
“It is an exciting and visionary way forward which will benefit the whole region.”