Plans have been outlined to transform Mansfield into a university town as part of ambitious proposals to revitalise the area.
Provision of student accommodation to support an increased number of learners in the town is just one focus of a bid for £25m in funding from the Government’s Towns Fund.
Disused buildings and land in the town centre would be repurposed to support an additional 2,285 education places at West Nottinghamshire College’s Chesterfield Road campus.
It follows a partnership between the college and Nottingham Trent University (NTU), which has seen NTU invest £6.5m in the district to deliver higher education qualifications in the town.
NTU will help West Notts College redevelop its Chesterfield Road premises to encompass the university’s Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise Centre, providing direct access to university research, expertise and technologies.
The centre will be the North Nottinghamshire base for the university’s business innovation and growth programmes, providing structured support to both new companies and those seeking to expand.
This is in addition to the university already using the college’s Derby Road base for other further education courses.
Andrew Cropley, principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College, is also chairman of the Making Mansfield Place Board.
He said: “The Future Tech, Skills and Knowledge Exchange will bring 600 or 700 students here daily, which will benefit our town centre.
“It is not just about the skills of today but the skills of tomorrow, making sure that people are able to access high-paid, high-quality, forward looking, secure employment.
“It’s also about enabling our local businesses to upskill their employees so they can become more productive, embrace new technologies, enter new markets, grow their businesses and offer yet more opportunities to local people.”
The move to improve the educational opportunities in the town is all part of a wider strategic vision to raise attainment and aspiration across Mansfield, which is currently in the top 10 per cent of most deprived places for education, skills and training.
The number of people with higher education qualifications in Mansfield stands at 22.2 per cent compared with 40.3 per cent nationally, which contributes to a low skill, low wage local economy with low social mobility.
Mike Robinson, Strategic Director at Mansfield District Council, said: “We want Mansfield to be a place where everyone achieves their aspirations.
“This partnership between NTU and West Notts College is a real game changer for Mansfield. It will make higher education so much more accessible to people here – and not just young people. It will enable older people to improve their life chances and help tackle the skills gaps among local employers.
“The courses have been designed so that even people already in employment or with family responsibilities can access them and there is a great deal of financial assistance available to people on low incomes to enable them to study.”
By 2033, the council expects the district’s employers and West Notts College to have built deep partnerships to ensure that the curriculum it offers is forward-looking and focused on supporting students to gain high quality, local employment or even start enterprises of their own once they have graduated.
It will also help businesses to embrace new technologies and up-skill existing staff to improve productivity and competitiveness and help businesses retain their highly skilled people.
Among the higher education courses it now offers are those in construction, engineering, business, education, nursing, music technology and sports science.
They range from full-time courses to part-time evening courses and lead to a variety of qualifications from HNCs to full Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees.