COMPLETION of a Pounds 14 million campus development hasn't come a moment too soon for Yale College.
The new campus for the fast-growing Wrexham college - the biggest investment in Welsh FE for five years - was opened this week by Ron Davies, Secretary of State for Wales. The odds are that it will be filled to capacity within the current academic year.
Principal Emlyn Jones said: "The prediction was that we would reach a level of 4,000 full-time equivalent students in 2001. Now it looks as though we are likely to get there this year."
Four years ago, Yale had 2,675 full-time equivalent students. In three years numbers grew by more than 40 per cent - to 3,783 full-time equivalent last year. This year's target is 4,063, growth of just under 52 per cent in four years. It means the college will have to use its new resources as efficiently as possible: "We had to go for the maximum grant possible because of the rate of growth. But the payments we'll have to make on the new buildings mean any further substantial new building is unlikely", said Mr Jones.
Of the Pounds 14m for the six new buildings, Pounds 10m came from the Further Education Funding Council for Wales. The remaining Pounds 4m came from college reserves, private donations and a loan from Barclay's Bank of Pounds 3m to be repaid over the next 25 years.
The new campus completes the physical transformation of the college created when North East Wales Institute decided, following the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act, to become an institute of higher education and shed its further education capacity.
The bulk of the FE section was added to the existing Yale sixth-form college - those who think the title presumptuous should note that, as Elihu Yale came from and is buried in Wrexham, it arguably has a prior claim over New Haven - to create the present institution.
Mr Jones finds it easier to point to what Yale does not teach - agriculture, horticulture and aeronautical engineering - than to summon up instantaneously what it does offer.
The existing range of A-levels (48 options), vocational courses, evening, weekend and adult classes has been supplemented since April by a role as managing agents for training schemes offered through CELTEC, the local training and education council. Equine studies courses, inspired by a single enthusiast in the old sixth-form college, attract horse-lovers from all over North Wales.
While full-time numbers have grown by 30 per cent since 1994, there has been even more rapid growth on part-time daytime courses. But Mr Jones sees scope for even greater expansion: "By the standards of most FE colleges we have a high proportion of full-timers, so logically the likeliest areas for growth are in part-time courses - particularly access and adult programmes."