Aylesbury’s new hub for higher education opens in the autumn, offering a diverse range of courses aimed at both students and businesses. Here is the low-down on University Campus Aylesbury Vale.
ONE: It is being built next to Waitrose and the Waterside Theatre by Aylesbury Vale District Council at a cost of £16.5m.
The site was originally going to be home to Peter Jones’ National Enterprise Academy, but after they pulled out the council decided to press ahead with the facility.
It will be run by Aylesbury College and Bucks New University. Ian Harper was appointed its general manager in November.
The 42 year old grew up in the town, attending Elmhurst and Aylesbury Grammar schools, before studying a degree in chemical physics at Canterbury.
He spent 14 years at Aylesbury-based training provider ATG before landing the UCAV role.
TWO: It will appeal to students (both young and mature) who want to study a higher education qualification of a vocational nature, without the costs associated with living away from home that comes with traditional universities.
Many courses are part-time and held in the evenings, enabling students to fit their studies in around other commitments. Foundation degrees on offer include business management, early years care and computing.
These are degree level, but on completion it is common for students to study a further one year ‘top-up’ to achieve a full honours degree. There are also other course types available, including in counselling, computing, social work and policing.
THREE: One of UCAV’s main aims is to train up the Vale’s workforce to make it relevant to the needs of local businesses.
It will run a number of professional development programmes for businesses to tap into. But more than that, it is hoped the vocational nature of the courses and their direct relevance to particular sectors will provide a highly skilled workforce to current employers, while also attracting new companies to the Vale. AVDC’s Teresa Lane said: “We have signifcant housing growth and we want sustainable communities – people living here also working here.”
FOUR: It has a ‘cyber lab’ on its first floor. Mr Harper explains: “It is a quarantined IT room, with its own server run independently from the rest of the building.
“It means we can demonstrate cyber attacks on networks without the risk of bringing the whole building down. We can show businesses what would happen if they were under attack.”
Cyber courses include ‘cyber resilience for executives’, ‘digital forensics and recovery’, ‘certified ethical hacker’ and ‘computer hacking forensics investigator’. Aylesbury is already home to one of the biggest cyber security firms in the world, McAfee.
FIVE: On the second floor will be an ‘assisted living lab’– a fully-functional two-bedroom apartment showcasing technologies enabling elderly or disabled people to stay in their homes.
Trainees can roleplay with actors when demonstrating the technology and they will be monitored by hidden cameras. Telehealth and assisted living is a big deal in Aylesbury, with businesses such as Possum and Gerald Simonds Healthcare leading the way, and of course the world-renowned National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
But there will be other uses for the room as well, for example to train social workers who carry out discreet checks on the suitability of a client’s home.
It could even be used as a crime scene to train police forensics teams. “We’re only just scratching the surface at the moment,” said Mr Harper.
SIX: The third floor is currently empty, but a summit is being held in the autumn to decide what it can be used for.
It is likely the campus will look to support emerging or established business clusters operating in the Vale. Options include food manufacturing (our councils are trying to attract more firms like Arla to the Vale), advanced manufacturing (we’re talking super-smart robots) and distribution, logistics and warehousing (despite our poor motorway connections, there are many local firms in this sector).
SEVEN: The ground floor will eventually house two restaurants for the general public.
The occupants are yet to be decided, but Aylesbury Vale District Council says it is keen to get a good mix of new, high-quality restaurants in town.
The two ‘destination’ restaurants would complement the handful planned as part of the Waterside North scheme opposite the cinema.
For the time being, the ground floor will be used for meeting and exhibition space.
EIGHT: It is hoped UCAV will boost Aylesbury’s town centre economy.
There will be 200 students at the campus (this will grow), and they will all need feeding at lunch-times.
The night-time economy will be boosted by delegates staying over-night (Travelodge looks to be in a prime location!).
Unlike traditional universities, the building will be operational all year round, maximising its benefit to other businesses.