The new University Centre Rotherham is expected to become a “game changer” for the town’s performance in getting students into higher education, councillors have been told.
It started taking students this term on a range of courses, including degrees accredited by Sheffield Hallam and Hull universities and offers a new option for those leaving college education or adults wanting to improve their qualifications.
Rotherham has a low numbers of residents with university standard qualifications, which is put down to a combination of social and economic factors which prevent some from continuing their education and that fact that many students end up living where they have studied, meaning those who do leave Rotherham never return.
But councillors on the Improving Lives select commission have been told the new campus is expected to make a major impact on that position, by providing an option which is more accessible to students wanting to continue their education.
Rotherham’s historic performance on education has been historically poor, though in recent years it has been steadily improving and at some levels achievement is now above the national average.
But it is acknowledged that while the main focus has been on helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds to get a good education, less has been done to help the most able exploit their abilities.
However, the opening of the campus is expected to change that.
Course fees are below the £9,000 maximum charged by most universities, its location in Rotherham means prospective students do not need to leave home to attend and it is anticipated a creche will be provided in future to allow mature students with young families to pursue their education.
Education officer Pepe Di’lasio told councillors: “Social and economic factors have been factors for not being able to access elite universities.
“UCR gives us something on our doorstep for these children to aspire to. I think it is a game changer for this town.
“We have to make sure what UCR offers is appropriate for children here in Rotherham. We need to make sure it has connectivity with schools so children can see the benefits.
“UCR offers a real opportunity going forwards. We have a reason for people to stay in Rotherham,” he said.
Deputy council leader Gordon Watson said there were fewer people with higher education qualifications in Rotherham “than almost anywhere else in the country”.
“A huge proportion of students end up living whwere they have studied,” he said.
“UCR is a game changer. You cannot fail to be impressed walking into the building. The next phase is for a creche to enable people who are older to go there, it should be a game changer for those in their 20s. Courses there are linked to local employment. The opportunities are massive.”
It is hoped the education available at University Centre Rotherham will help equip an emerging generation with the skills they need to take advantage of the engineer industry now re-emerging in Rotherham.