Local MP Jesse Norman has warmly welcomed the news that Herefordshire Council is giving its formal backing to the New University of Herefordshire project.
The Council overwhelmingly supported a motion which is expected to permit the transfer of land and property assets to a specially-created trust for development by the university project team. The assets will be used by the project to underwrite future fundraising efforts, but with the guarantee that they will revert back to the Council if they are not used.
The university project team was established in 2012, and brings together a group of local and national experts in education and related areas. It is headed up by local businesspeople Karen Usher, who was instrumental in establishing the Front Room community centre in Dorstone, and David Sheppard.
For his part, Jesse has been promoting the idea of a new university for six years; has worked with the project team since its creation; recruited key outside advisers, and last week made the trust's first charitable donation of £5,600.
Commenting afterwards, Jesse said “This is wonderful news, and marks a potentially historic moment for Herefordshire. The Council has done extremely well to give almost unanimous cross-party backing to the university project.
“Particular credit is due to Karen Usher and David Sheppard and the project team for their work in developing and building local support. There is absolutely no way the idea would have got this far without them. Nearly 4,000 volunteer hours have been invested in this project so far, which is extraordinary.
“Our vision is for a top-quality technical university, starting from the centre of Hereford city but covering the whole county, providing great opportunities for our young people, but also attracting in talented people from across the country. It would take its place alongside the excellent vocational and higher education offered by the Hereford College of Arts and the Hereford and Ludlow College of Technology.
“There are huge opportunities opening up in higher education. What makes Hereford unique is that key university buildings can be located right at its heart, alongside the mediaeval centre.
“The experience of cities such as Lincoln and Canterbury is that a university acts as a huge stimulus to local economic and social activity. If we can get it right, this will help to lift Herefordshire's long-term growth, improving jobs and boosting wages.
“As I have long argued, we need a 20-30 year high-value growth strategy for the county, focused on technology and skills, fast broadband, the Enterprise Zone and better road and rail communications. The new university can be a vital part of this.”