HAVING a university campus in the town centre will be a game-changer for Rotherham and bring a skills revolution, college bosses have said.
Rotherham College will submit a planning application in the coming weeks for its £12 million higher education centre on Doncaster Gate.
Work could begin on the former hospital site in June, with the aim being for the first courses for up to 1,000 students to begin in autumn 2018.
Deputy principal Philip Sayles said: “Every other town in South Yorkshire has a university or university campus. We have higher education students at Rotherham College but, with this, we are going to see a step change.
“There is an issue that people don’t come back after going away to study, the ‘brain drain’. This will help to stop this Rotherham ‘brain drain’.
“It’s an exciting project, an absolute game-changer for Rotherham that will create a skills revolution here. It’s something that will make a difference for decades to come.”
Courses at the campus will include health, digital industries, technical construction, leadership and management and engineering. Qualifications will be provided through the University of Hull and Sheffield Hallam University.
RNN Group, which runs Rotherham College, said the new development could help create 30 businesses in its first five years.
A £3.5 million grant for the project was confirmed by Sheffield City Region last week, with RNN investing the rest.
And building so close to the college will bring benefits for students, who can use facilities at both sites, as well as cost savings for the company.
Mr Sayles said: “It will be very close to the town centre, just a few streets away. This will help regenerate the town and bring more footfall.
“Further along, it could draw more people to the town, which would fit with the council’s aim of increasing town centre accommodation.
“It will bring real benefits to Rotherham. It will empower people, help to regenerate the town and bring reputational benefits.”
The campus will more than treble the number of people on HE courses in Rotherham — and there is space to expand at Doncaster Gate in the future.
Mr Sayles said: “We are working very closely with employers to put on higher-level education and help them employ well-trained young people.
“Our staff are excited because even though they help change young people’s lives every day, there are not many chances in your career to be part of helping with a significant building like this.
“Most education buildings, if they are of any age, will have been repurposed a number of times. Students will notice the difference of being in a 21st century-designed building.”
The RNN Group, with a projected turnover of more than £50 million, also includes North Notts College in Worksop.
Chief executive John Connolly said: “This project will help people to achieve things they never thought possible, without having to move away to university and have a huge debt looming over them.”