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Blunkett poised to join Cornish university row;FE Focus

Government intervention may help break the deadlock over efforts to establish a university in Cornwall.

The scheme has been plagued by controversy and Exeter University's ambitions to provide a campus at Trereife near Penzance have been killed off following the local council's refusal to buy the 70-acre site.

There are deep divisions about what form of higher education will best suit the county.

Cornwall College, based in Camborne, recently emerged with a rival proposal for a university with a scattered campus - on the model of Scotland's Highland and Island's. It says that Exeter University's project is impractical and expensive.

Last week Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, met David Blunkett, the Education Secretary. "He is prepared to put his hands on - he said that if there's anything he can do to progress negotiations with the HE providers, then he is keen to do so." said Mr George.

A meeting of all HE providers in the region is to take place soon and Richard Caborn, minister with special responsibility for the South-west, is expected to attend.

Cornwall College has already called for discussions involving the local universities - Plymouth and Exeter - and other FE amp; HE institutions to work out a way forward.

Despite losing the land at Trereife, Exeter has not given up plans for a campus university.

But David Rogers, the director of external relations and development, admits that without a location, raising funds will be more difficult.

Even before the project floundered, Exeter University had struggled to attract finance. Only pound;500,000 of the estimated pound;30 million needed had been pledged.

"Finding another site is critical," said Mr Rogers. "We hope that the Government will make the necessary investment. We think Exeter has put Cornwall's HE needs on the map."

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