COUNTY councillors say they will keep a close eye on Hereford’s fledgling university to make sure it is a success and to avoid reputational damage to Herefordshire Council.

The local authority is the accountable body for the New Model in Technology and Engineering which is expected to take in its first students in January next year.

The council supports the project and recently acted as underwriter for a recent Marches Local Enterprise Partnership loan of £850,000 for the purchase by the university of the former Robert Owen Academy building on Blackfriars Street.

But councillors are all too aware of the financial difficulties faced by educational institutions across the country and believe close scrutiny will help prevent such problems locally.

Speaking at a recent meeting of audit and governance committee, chairman Nigel Shaw asked for the university’s progress to be regularly reviewed by councillors.

“The issue of NMiTE is closely watched by the general public,” he said. “It’s of great interest to them and all members of council.

“I very much appreciate that it’s a fast-moving area where a number of milestones need to be delivered to ensure that funding from the Department for Education continues.

“I would very much like the committee to ask for this item to be brought back again almost as a standing item at the current time while interest is so palpable in the new university opportunity.

“We have a reputational risk associated with this as well and to keep it on the agenda would be prudent.

Councillor Yolande Watson said she was pleased to hear the suggestion as quite a few concerns were raised about the university at the previous meeting.

Councillor Bob Matthews said: “The fact that a large number of universities around the country are deeply in debt I think you will agree tis is very important we closely monitor the expenditure which we have got an overall general responsibility to make sure it is spent correctly.

“Otherwise, I hope it’s not the case, but we may find this university that is trying to progress finding themselves in financial trouble as well.”

Herefordshire Council agreed in December 2017 to become the accountable body for public funding allocated to the new Hereford university during its establishment phase.