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Town to be learning centre

NEW COURSES will make Bognor Regis a national centre for earners and learners.


The town’s campus of the University of Chichester is to offer a host of modern apprenticeships in its new engineering and digital technology park.


The £45m development is six months away from opening and deputy vice-chancellor Professor Seamus Higson said it was on schedule and on budget to transform the provision of higher education.


“We have two programmes for modern apprentices at the moment. In September, when the technology park opens, we will have 11 programmes going. That will be one of the largest number of digital apprenticeships for any university in the UK.


“We could be in the top three but it’s difficult to know that at the moment.


“The key thing with these apprenticeships is that they allow employers to take on somebody to study for a degree while they are working.


“We are possibly looking at 70-100 apprenticeships this summer but the number is uncertain.


“These programmes also allow us to connect with employers around the area and tailor them to their needs.”


The tech park is taking shape on the B2259 opposite Butlin’s, and is the largest science development since the sixties at a British university.


“Many of the residents of Bognor Regis and the surrounding area are going to have their eyes open by the scale of what is happening on their doorstep,” said Prof Higson. “The sheer level of investment is something that is going to put Bognor Regis on the map in a way it has not been before.”


Formula ONE engineering hopeful Louise Grainger wants to travel the world with the motor racing industry after studying in her home town.


Louise, 19, will be among the first engineering students to study in the £45m engineering and digital technology park, which will open in Bognor Regis this September.


The large investment at the University of Chichester’s campus in the town to double its students to 3,000 has given Louise hope she will stay ahead of the chasing pack in the competitive industry.


“I attended The Regis School and when I was there I had no idea if working in the motor racing industry, especially F1 or Formula E, was attainable for me.


“At that time I would have had to travel to find a suitable course but, now the tech park is on my doorstep, so I can study for the right qualification while staying close to home,” she said.


“Formula 1 is the pinnacle. It’s the ultimate ambition for a lot of motor sport mechanics. But I’d be happy to work in any class.


“Having been part of a kart racing team for some time now, working as a mechanic…I love the buzz of races and working to ensure the kart runs at its best.”


Engineering and design student Louise was one of the first students to enrol on the university’s foundation year course last September. The programme involves an element which teaches the science which underlines a race car. This includes engineering, design and electrical testing. It was created to make science, technology, engineering and maths more accessible for students.


Professor Stuart Harmer, head of engineering and design at the university, said the new development would be its biggest building.


“It is going to change the profile of the university, which is known for its liberal arts courses. It’s been a challenge to put that across to students. We can’t take them around the new building yet.


So, they can’t see the extent to which it’s going to change the university.


“I think it will take three to five years’ time for that to happen. But the students we have had in have been impressed by the scale of what we are doing and the difference it will make to the campus.


“We have to be realistic. The university won’t establish an engineering reputation overnight. That is likely to take ten years until it is relatively well known, with a few full cycles of students having gone through.”


He expected engineering students to initially number 35-60. That would build up to 150 a year in about five years and the engineering courses – MSc and PhD among them – would then have some 500 students in all.


The university would be offering programmes of learning which were not available at nearby universities such as Portsmouth, Brighton and Solent Southampton, he said, to increase its attraction to potential undergraduates from a wider area than usually applied to study at the university.


As well as engineering, the new development will also offer a range of digital creative courses, such as digital animation and 3D technology.


Deputy vice-chancellor Seamus Higson said: “The digital animation will be of the kind seen in films like Avatar, and the technology used in flight simulators and programs for virtual reality.


“Digital animation was not known ten years ago. Now, anyone who watches broadcasters like Netflix will see it regularly. Our facilities will allow us to teach it.


“One of my ambitions with this development is to get country-wide recognition that something exciting and amazing is happening down in Bognor Regis,” he said. “It is our job to get the information out there that everything in this scheme is of the highest quality.”


Prof Jane Longmore, the university’s vice chancellor, said: “With the offer of design, engineering, creative and digital technology, the tech park adds further breadth to the university’s existing strengths in education, sport, humanities, social science and the performing arts.”


She hosted the Earl of Selborne, the Foundation for Science and Technology’s chairman, at the site last year when he viewed the facilities.

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