Monday March 17 - Campaign to bring a university to Dudley

I visited Dudley College last week to step up the campaign to bring a university to Dudley.

Last week the Secretary of State for Universities, Science and Innovation, John Denham, announced plans to develop twenty new universities or university campuses over the next six years, providing places for up to 10,000 students.

Since then I've discussed the plans with John and his colleagues, talked to the RDA, the local authority and to Lowell Williams at Dudley College, who's hosting a meeting to discuss pulling together a task force of councillors, officers, the business community and those involved in education in the borough to lead a community campaign for a university in Dudley.

I think it would be an unforgivable mistake if we missed out.

Boosting skills, ambition and aspiration is the key to tackling problems of low skills, low staying on rates low levels of participation in higher education - and we've got to deal with those if we are to secure the borough's prosperity in the future.

Firstly Dudley must be the largest Borough in the country with no university provision. The government wants to get half of all young people going to university and the increase will come from areas like my constituency where a smaller proportion of young people are staying on and getting degrees than elsewhere.

Second, the harsh truth is that the days when you could leave school with few qualifications and get a well-paid job for life are gone for good.

The world is changing faster than ever before and the only way Britain and places like Dudley will succeed is by investing in skills and ensuring that people here have higher skills than those elsewhere. We've really got no choice about this, because modern communications and transport systems mean low-skilled work will move to wherever pay rates are lowest and there's no way we can - or should - compete with third-world pay rates for low skilled jobs.

So the only way we will persuade the high-wage, high-skill businesses of the future on whom our prosperity will depend, is if we can show them we've got the skills they need.

We've been working on plans to develop a new Innovation Centre at Castlegate to bring hi-tech skills to the area. I've persuaded the Advantage West Midlands to back the council's plans. Universities are already signed up and that means we're well ahead of the game.

And imagine the impact new university buildings and hundreds of students could have on the town centre and its economy, as well as bringing new high-skill jobs to the borough and making a massive contribution towards the council's plans for regeneration.

You can read more details about the council's plans here http://www.dius.gov.uk What do you think? You can vote here to say whether you agree with Ian that Dudley should be the location for one of the new sites www.ianaustin.co.uk.

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