Geoff Layer’s vision for Wolverhampton University sounds more like the mission statement of a high-flying business than a cathedral of learning.
The ambitious £250 million programme to overhaul its buildings and facilities was launched last year and in the first 12 months has already secured almost half the funding. It is a question of when, not if, the rest will follow.
With a general election on the horizon and discussions emerging about the West Midlands Combined Authority, the university chiefs put their heads together this time last year.
Professor Layer said: “Things were going to happen. We’d had a period of reflection and in our strategy we’d talked about being an economic anchor regionally.
“Because our students go to work in the area, our vision was about boosting the economy in the area, upskilling the workforce, training the workforce of the future, helping them start up companies.
“So in March 2015 we decided to set a target of generating £250m over five years. The amount so far committed is just shy of £120m of which 60 per cent is cash the university has generated and 40 per cent has come from external funding. I think it’s gone better than we had thought.”
The money is being spent on a host of schemes, with a £65m chunk being poured into transforming the historic 12-acre former Springfield Brewery site that closed in the early 1990s.
The prize canalside location, derelict for so long, will be opened in phases, with the West Midlands Construction University Technical College the first to take in students this autumn. This will be followed by the Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills next year, and the School of Architecture and the Built Environment in 2018. The entire site is expected to be fully operational by 2020.In other developments, a £10m health college in West Bromwich, in the former Sandwell College building, opened in September. The university is also building a £25m science block and will fund a £4 million revamp of the food court at the University’s Millennium City Building, as well as a makeover of the main courtyard area and better access to the back of the Wulfruna Building, in particular the newly-refurbished Chancellor’s Hall.
In November a six-storey £20m business school, formally named the Lord Swraj Paul Building, opened its doors to students. More recently, in February, work started on the £10m Science, Technology and Prototyping Centre on land at the university’s Science Park and last month the £500,000 transformation of The Feathers, a former match-day favourite of Wolves fans, into a new apprenticeship hub began.
And just last week the university announced it was spending £13m on upgrading digital learning technology for students. Some 700 computers will be replaced across the Wolverhampton and Walsall campuses with the latest machines, with plans to roll it out to Telford next year. And, beyond that, there are plans to use digital technology in a new way. The union building has been renamed The Ambika Paul Building
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