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The Corporation

Posted: 20/02/09

'Virtual university' opens its doors

A 'virtual university' aimed at boosting access to higher education (HE) throughout Ashfield and Mansfield has opened it doors.

Ashfield District Council Chairman, Councillor May Barsby, officially unveiled West Nottinghamshire College's new Higher Education Centre on Tuesday 20 January at a ceremony attended by local dignitaries and representatives of schools, colleges and universities.

Open to the College’s existing and potential HE students, the £450,000 centre – based in the College’s Construction and Logistics Skills Academy at Station Park, Kirkby-in-Ashfield – has a learning resource area, five classrooms and staff accommodation boasting state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.

It also contains an interactive learning 'kiosk' providing advice, guidance, video case studies and details of university-level courses throughout the area.

The centre is one of seven throughout the region to be funded by £1.2m from the Alliance Sub-regional Strategic Partnership as part of its A2CHEA (Access to Collaborative Higher Education Alliance) project, which is delivering new and innovative higher skills and learning opportunities across the sub-region, which covers North Nottinghamshire and North Derbyshire.

Learners can access their studies from any of the centres, where advice and support on progressing skills and careers is also available. They form a 'virtual university' network being rolled out to other further and higher education providers in Worksop, Edwinstowe, Chesterfield, Clay Cross and Killamarsh.

The centre complements West Nottinghamshire College's existing HE provision and support available at its main Derby Road campus in Mansfield.

The College works in partnership with the University of Derby and Leeds Metropolitan University to deliver high-quality university-level qualifications including HNDs, HNCs, foundation degrees and full honours degrees to more than 600 students.

Asha Khemka OBE, the College's Principal and Chief Executive, said: "We are delighted to be part of such an exciting project. The College is committed to widening access to university-level courses for local communities and we are constantly extending our own successful HE provision – so it's exciting to be able to offer these new facilities and range of information, advice and guidance."

The College’s HE team is planning a full programme of events and activities at the new centre including its innovative 'Passport to HE' summer school to give prospective students every opportunity to take advantage of the new facilities.

A2CHEA Project Manager Yvonne Dickinson said: "The funding from the Alliance SSP has enabled us to support the realisation of higher education locally. We have built a strong partnership of universities and colleges who support the delivery of learning opportunities in areas where people can now have easier access to flexible learning at a time and place more suitable to them."

More than 50 guests attended the official opening ceremony including Mansfield Mayor Tony Egginton, councillors from Ashfield and Mansfield district councils, College governors and representatives of schools, colleges, universities and educational bodies including the Learning and Skills Council and Aimhigher.

They were treated to guided tours of the College's Construction and Logistics Skills Academy, which opened in June 2008 and offers top-class facilities to around 650 students on a range of courses including building services, bricklaying, joinery, painting and decorating, surveying and construction management.

For further information about A2CHEA visit www.chea-nmidlands.ac.uk