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The following article appeared in today's Western Morning News:
Women's group offers cash ahead of talks to settle dispute over university
THE Government has been invited to chair round table talks about a university for Cornwall as, it was revealed last night, an international women's group said it was prepared to invest up to £3 million in the project.
Richard Caborn, the Minister for the Regions, or Jane Henderson, head of the Government Office of the South West, are expected to bring all sides of the university debate together within the next few weeks.
It follows a previous meeting between Mr Caborn and Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, who warned last night that Cornwall could not afford to be fobbed off with "some half-baked initiative".
The proposed talks are being seen as a breakthrough in the university debate, which has been bogged down by arguments between Exeter and Plymouth Universities over the best way to proceed.
Sir Geoffrey Holland, Exeter University's Vice-Chancellor, has pushed for a single large campus at Penzance, while Plymouth favours a multi-centre campus with its headquarters at Cornwall College, Pool.
It has also emerged that the West Cornwall-based International Hypatia Trust is prepared to consider a "very substantial" contribution to a Cornish university initiative.
The trust, which is dedicated to the history of women, is interested in setting up its own library and research facility as part of a larger university campus.
Melissa Hardie, of Newmills, Penzance, one of the trustees, explained: "We have an international network of friends, some of whom happen to be very wealthy.
"It is the concept of a university for Cornwall which we wish to support.
"I want this to be seen as a positive contribution by women to higher education in this county. Half of our books are in the Exeter University library and we are interested in creating our own library and research institute, as part of a campus, which students and the public could use."
Sir Geoffrey last night backed the need for round table talks and a joint approach on higher education in the county, and said that in the last two weeks he had been lobbying the Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for England about the need for a university for Cornwall.
He said: "Any forum that is now convened should be chaired initially by the Government, which at long last has woken up to the urgent need Cornwall has."
Sir Geoffrey said the forum, which he believes should be chaired in future by a non-political Cornish person of standing, should also include Plymouth University, Falmouth College of Arts, the College of St Mark and St John and the Open University.
Calls have been made for the warring factions to bury the hatchet and agree on a joint university proposal, as the dispute was reducing the chances of extra aid for higher education being pumped into Cornwall.
Prof John Bull, Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth University, has already said all sides should sit down and work out how best to provide better higher education in the county.
Mr George, whose constituency includes Penzance, warned last night: "Cornwall must not be fobbed off with some half-baked initiative. A very substantial development is essential.
"I am confident that the combination of ministerial intervention and securing European Objective 1 status will see a Cornwall University College off the ground."
Sir Geoffrey said: "From this autumn cost of living grants for students will be abolished. Cornwall will be seriously disadvantaged unless there is major and rapid expansion of opportunities - an expansion no one institution can provide by itself.
"For so long young people have been leaving Cornwall.
"It needs to be able to attract national and international students as well as provide much better opportunities for Cornish residents."
Copyright © Western Morning News Company 1998
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Last modification: 15th January 2002
Last information content change: 12th November 1998