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Solihull College & University Centre could open a new campus near the UK Central Arden Cross HS2 Interchange Station, Principal John Callaghan has revealed.
A key element in the HS2 masterplan, Arden Cross will form a point where the line from London splits to head to Leeds and Manchester on dedicated north east and North West routes.
It is also from Arden Cross that a spur will take passengers to the Birmingham city centre terminus at Curzon Street, with a dedicated link to Birmingham Airport.
After receiving Royal Assent, construction work can now begin on HS2 with an estimated first-phase completion of 2026 and Mr Callaghan is keen for Solihull College & University Centre to meet any higher education needs in the Arden Cross area.
“I would like to think we could have a presence at Arden Cross as we can offer higher education and advanced training including digital technologies,” said Mr Callaghan.
“The new HS2 station is ideally located for an educational presence and we could see a new campus there at some stage.”
In total, 70 per cent of the UK population are within a two-hour travel time of Arden Cross, a number that will see a significant increase following the delivery of the first phase of HS2.
“I’m very optimistic about HS2,” added Mr Callaghan.
“I do understand it will be disruptive and we need to consider the people who will be displaced by the project but for far too long this country has been focused on the South East and if we want to rebalance the economy then we can’t do it with the current infrastructure.
“I see HS2 as a huge opportunity with the Arden Cross proposals and the Interchange in Solihull being the first stop from London.”
After a ‘significant year’ at Solihull College & University Centre with positive government financial viability appraisals, a ‘Good’ Ofsted report, A good HE inspection report and new University Centre branding, Mr Callaghan is keen to start building for the future.
“We came through that intensive government process with the recommendation this is a standalone institution that can push itself forward,” he said.
“We’re growing our higher education and apprenticeships, and despite funding pressures we’re holding our own.
“Things are looking promising for the college in a sector that is subject to continued funding cuts. We’re really trying to buck the trend.
“We’re now looking for our next steps, one of which could be a presence in Arden Cross.”
Solihull College & University Centre has invested more than £4.5 million supported by GBSLEP in new technology and facilities at both its Blossomfield Road and Woodlands campuses.
“We’ve repurposed our science labs so they are now state of the art at Blossomfield. In Woodlands we’ve bought a former Royal Navy aircraft and flight simulator to help train aircraft maintenance engineers as well as 3D printers and a vast array of highly technical rigs and equipment,” he said.
“We’re now offering a BSc (Hons) in Aircraft Maintenance, which has been franchised from Coventry University as they have acknowledged that our facilities and equipment are first class and that our staff have the skills and ability teach this degree in its entirety.”
Mr Callaghan takes pride in the work his staff are achieving in health and social care, animal care, computing and digital, sports, science, hair & beauty, manufacturing and advanced engineering provision but is also determined that Solihull College & University Centre doesn’t lose sight of arts and creativity training in the coming years.
“There is a danger the national focus will move away from arts because everyone thinks the jobs are in science and technology,” said Mr Callaghan.
“But it’s the artists and creative individuals that challenge our engineers and builders and it’s those skills that come up with the design flair.
“These are the people who innovate and I’m concerned that with the pressures we face at the moment, our creative talent will not be encouraged.
“We need to make sure we don’t look back in five to ten years’ time regretting a lack of investment in this.
“For example if Jaguar Land Rover our prestige car manufacturer didn’t have enough creative people their model range would soon become old, and people may chose an alternative but it is clear that JLR are innovating and continually bringing out fabulous new vehicles.
“Yes, the engineers are massively important because they have to build reliable products, but the creative individuals play a significant role too.
“There is a feeling of a renaissance in the Midlands that is unique. It’s the most exciting place to be. We need to capitalise on this,” he added.