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Shrewsbury university scores a solid 2:1

By Thom Kennedy | Shrewsbury | Business | Published:

Shrewsbury's new university would gain a "reasonable 2:1" if measured using the institution's own grading system, its vice chancellor has said.

Tim Wheeler being questioned at the growth strategy launch

Tim Wheeler, vice chancellor of the University of Chester which runs the University Centre Shrewsbury, was asked at the launch of Shropshire Council's new Economic Growth Strategy how he would rank the two-year-old university's performance so far.

"If we were giving it a degree classification I would say a reasonable 2:1," he said. "We have got a lot more to do but we have come a long way in the last two years.

"About five years ago the council identified a shortage in terms of higher education. If you look at the county of Shropshire there's a low participation rate of 18 to 21-year-olds in higher education.

"The University of Chester was commissioned to do the research and the more we looked at the results we thought how is it a county like Shropshire hasn't got a university?"

Mr Wheeler said the university could ultimately have a similar status to in similar locations such as Lincoln, whose university is now 20 years old and has 10,000 students, contributing hundreds of millions of pounds to the local economy.

He also cited the University of Suffolk in Ipswich, which he said recently came of age.

"About three months ago I went to the University of Suffolk, and there's real parallels with where we are now and where they were eight to 10 years ago," he said.

"They came into being 10 years ago as an idea and in the last few months they reached the critical mass of about 4,000 students. They are contributing about £140 million into the local economy and if you're looking for a multiplier for every member of staff at a university you sustain about three other jobs in the local community."

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He added: "It has been a very good partnership with the council, and we have had agreement on about 95 per cent of everything."

Mr Wheeler also discussed the impact of Brexit on Shropshire. He said: "I don't think the impact of Brexit is going to be over dramatic, but it exemplifies that in order to develop new markets such as China, the US, Canada, you have to have a global niche with skills and expertise, and that is where a university can make a contribution.

"It's about productivity, and we know this country has a productivity gap. You can address that with capital investment, but also by investing in the intellectual capacity of your workforce.

We know when students graduate there is a huge gravitational pull to stay in the area. If you're training young people in Shropshire, many will want to add to the skills base in Shropshire."

University Centre Shrewsbury is now one of three institutions in the county, with the University of Wolverhampton having a campus in Telford and Harper Adams near Newport having attained university status in 2012.

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