University of Wakefield plans

EXCITING plans for a university in Wakefield have been unveiled in the week that the government decided to raise the school leaving age.

The proposals for a University Centre of Wakefield form part of plans for Wakefield College’s new city centre campus on Margaret Street.

A feasibility study looking at the need for a ‘stronger higher education presence’ in the district was commissioned by the council in partnership with the college.

Council chiefs are due to consider its findings at a cabinet meeting next week.

It found that the lack of a local university was a ‘major barrier to the district’s future economic growth.’

Figures show Wakefield has the highest number of young people aged 16 or over who are not in employment, education or training in West Yorkshire, despite having some of the highest GCSE pass rates.

Wakefield College already offers foundation degrees, which are accredited by the four universities of Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds and Sunderland.

But this would enable the college to offer accredited honours degrees as well, and principal Heather MacDonald said it was the first step towards the creation of the University of Wakefield.

She said: “This is a very exciting prospect. Progression rates in Wakefield are low because young people have low aspirations. They do not believe that university or higher education is for them.

“But I care passionately that every young person in Wakefield should have the same opportunities as other young people in the country.”

Under new measures announced by the government this week, all pupils will have to stay in education or training until the end of the school year in which they are 17 by 2013.

By 2015, the leaving age will be raised to 18.