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College plans pounds 14m centre of excellence.

Byline: Stuart Dye

A NEW centre of excellence in Wirral will launch Government projects to take students from vocational GCSEs to degree level education, it was announced last night.

The borough's metropolitan college has submitted detailed plans for the pounds 14m waterfront development at the Morpeth Dock site in Birkenhead.

The campus will house facilities for technology, engineering, construction, arts and media and is due to open in around two years.

In one of the few schemes of its type in the country, college chiefs have earmarked the site as one of the first to offer the Government's new vocational GCSE qualifications.

The college already offers 60 degree courses from universities including Liverpool John Moores, Sheffield, Staffordshire, Manchester and Nottingham Trent.

Ray Dowd, Wirral Met principal, said: "This is one of the most exciting new developments in further education in Wirral for many years.

"Students will be able to arrive at 14, in partnership with their school, and go right through to degree-level higher education, thanks to our links with universities.

"One third of 16-year-olds who continue with education drop out before 18. What Wirral will have is a new centre of excellence that can help redress that balance and provide the technical skills for the future." College officials are now waiting for planning permission and to secure funding from the Learning and Skills Council. If successful, building work is due to start as early as May this year.

The 8,500sq metre building has been designed with the nautical history of the area in mind.

It is hoped the development can bring to Birkenhead the kind of vibrancy that waterfront sites in Liverpool enjoy.

As well as bus, train and ferry access, the site will have a tram service which is expected to link up to the town network currently being developed by Wirral Council.

The Borough Road building, built some 50 years ago principally to train Cammell Laird apprentices, is expected to be sold off with the money being ploughed back into the new campus.

The development will include a complete refurbishment of the existing centre at Conway Park with the two buildings functioning as a joint campus.

The Carlett Park campus will also be redesigned to concentrate on more academic courses.

Mr Dowd said: "It will service the needs of the local employment sector and provide the basis to equip students with the real skills to enter local business and industry."

The development is one of three phases in a four-year recovery plan put into emergency operation after a damning report which labelled Wirral Metropolitan as the second worst college in the country just two and a half years ago.


VISION: An artist's impression of the proposed centre
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 8, 2002
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