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Employer push for offshore university

Research is underway into the feasibility of creating a university in Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, with a population now approaching almost 90,000.

The island already offers degree provision through Highlands college, which has links with the University of Plymouth.

The state education department is now considering building on that and creating a postgraduate centre to offer courses to suit Jersey's biggest employer, the finance industry.

The Swiss bank UBS has sponsored a fact-finding visit by Highlands college principal Dr Ed Sallis who, in considering possible models, visited UBS's banker training centre and a commercial school near Zurich.

Other key figures in Jersey's finance world have also been involved.

A presentation of ideas is due early next year. At present, 97 per cent of students stay on post-16 and more than 50 per cent progress to higher education. Jersey still offers grants rather than student loans.

Senator Mike Vibert, Jersey's education president, said: "While young people benefit from the wider experience gained by leaving the island, there are others, such as those with families, for whom it is difficult. We want to offer a choice."

Highlands college offers degree courses related to tourism and social services.

But tourism has flagged recently and several hotels have closed. Dr Sallis hopes one effect of a university would be to keep them open.

One potential specialism could, he feels, be a link to the conference industry.

However Jersey could not support a mainstream university on the traditional English model.

"Whatever we do would be a big investment for an island of 90,000 people," said Senator Vibert.

Neighbouring Guernsey is also a significant offshore financial centre and a longstanding rival of Jersey.

"We will discuss our plans with the other Channel Islands," said Senator Vibert.

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