A multi-million pound Shropshire university with its hub in Shrewsbury is close to becoming a reality if a bid gets the green light.
If approved, it would mean a wide range of university level courses and apprenticeships being available to people at a variety of locations throughout the county.
Shrewsbury’s further education colleges are working with Ludlow and Walford colleges along with the region’s existing universities and public partners to develop the idea.
Phil Wilson, of Shropshire Council’s children and young people’s services, said: “We are on the fringes of an opportunity and it has been a dream for a many years, which is close to becoming a reality more so than ever.”
The partnership is applying for funding in response to the Government’s New University Challenge programme, which has made £150 million available to create more higher education centres by 2014.
With support from Shropshire Council, it is hoped a proposal will be submitted by the end of June for a share of the cash.
Mr Wilson said: “We had to express an interest before Christmas in the programme and we are one of 27 schemes to do so. We are hoping that a bid will be successful so that we could use this money together with other sources to create a higher education centre in Shropshire.
“This would include some capital investment and upgrading of existing facilities and also branding it as a HE centre. Some of the town’s college buildings would be set aside and developed so they are clearly part of this new HE centre.
“It will have a name and we are looking at a ‘hub and spoke’ model so that probably the centre would be in Shrewsbury but there would be spokes in other urban centres in the county where people could access courses.
“We also want to develop e-learning so that people can do courses online. This would allow people to access skills and training without leaving the county.
“The New University Challenge will not fund this 100 per cent and we expect to have to find match-funding. We are looking to work with businesses and other partners such as Advantage West Midlands to assist this.”
The Shropshire Business Board, which includes some of the county’s biggest employers, has offered its enthusiastic endorsement of the bid and is urging other Shropshire businesses to do the same by providing letters of support for the proposals to the council.