Monday 23rd September 2013, 4:00PM BST.
YOU don’t need a PhD to work out that ambitious plans to site an international seat of learning in Guernsey would present several challenges.
But just how realistic a prospect would a University of the Channel Islands actually be?
News of the idea has understandably been overshadowed by the other big Education story of the moment regarding school closures.
Billed as only a concept at this stage, the ‘boutique university’ proposal from a private-sector group has already been dubbed by some as pie-in-the-sky thinking. Yet is there a compelling case for the venture to be considered? Probably.
Certainly, it is not the first time such an idea has been mooted. And it must be worth investigating a scheme from a syndicate spearheaded by highly-qualified educationalists pledging a facility ‘characterised in every way by excellence’.
But impressive CVs aside, major question marks remain about the logistical feasibility of the project aiming to attract 1,000 students (rising to 2,000) to the island for [initially] postgraduate, and then undergraduate studies.
Some ideas have been put forward for possible teaching venues, all of which are likely to be controversial. And one of the main sticking points will clearly be how the island is to accommodate the students – on campus or in already over-subscribed local rented property?
Will flying in lecturers actually work, and in all-weathers? How can organisers be sure of fulfilling their pledge to bring the ‘best academic partners’ here?
While our relatively safe environment may meet the group’s 20% of overseas students target, is there enough on the island to attract the 60% it wants from the UK and Europe who will have the option of less-expensive and livelier large towns and cities?
Could our social infrastructure and public services cope with an influx of non-tax-paying residents? Would it impact negatively on other training institutions already here? Would Jersey be involved?
And while student-spend could potentially boost the economy, financial failure of the project would damage that and the island’s reputation.
Alternatively, the idea that it could potentially spawn a world-class marine biology centre for the Bailiwick, boost our profile as a financial centre of excellence and develop our standing as sporting island, deserves investigation.
Without empirical answers to all this, any
talk about a university concept will remain just that… purely academic.