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Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 12:09 GMT
Campuses planned for 20 towns
University doors
The government wants universities to boost local economies
There are plans to open 20 more university campuses and higher education centres in England, providing places for 10,000 students.

The government is to invite proposals to create new and expanded institutions in the next six years.

It wants to use higher education as a way of regenerating local communities and creating employment.

Higher education can "help unlock the talent of their local people" said the universities secretary, John Denham.

The government is announcing a "New University Challenge" which will set out plans for 20 more higher education centres, which it wants to use as catalysts for generating jobs and skills.

Regeneration

Since 2003, there have been 17 new higher education institutions or extra campuses announced - and Mr Denham wants to push this further, linking university growth to regional economies.

"Never have universities and colleges been more important to our country both nationally in ensuring our success on the world stage and locally in our towns and cities through the creation of jobs and new skills, driving regeneration and enriching cultural life," Mr Denham said.

"I want to build on the successes of the last few years which have seen new centres of higher education transforming local economies and the lives of local people."

According to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius), the higher education sector directly supports 600,000 jobs and generates 50bn each year.

It points to the lower unemployment rates among graduates - and sees the increase in participation in higher education as vital to economic competitiveness.

These new universities would help to tap into "latent talent" in the workforce, including five million adults who have three A-levels but have never had an experience of higher education.

Professor David Eastwood, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, welcomed the plan as an opportunity to improve access to higher education in "parts of the country where there has been serious under-provision".

The new campuses since 2003 have been at Barnsley, Cornwall, Cumbria, Folkestone, Hastings, Medway, Oldham, Peterborough, Southend, Suffolk, Darlington. There are projects planned for Blackpool, Blackburn, Burnley, Everton, Grimsby and North and South Devon.

The Conservatives said that there was no new money for such an expansion - and that "second-chance" education was being cut, with funding changes to second undergraduate degrees.

"It is incoherent for ministers to commit to new higher education centres while cutting money from part-time students and adult learners," said Conservative universities spokesman, David Willetts.



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