Bradford College chiefs believe they are creating the UK’s leading college, by investing more than £100 million within a five-year period.
The college is in the middle of a near-£50m rebuild. That includes creating an an L-shaped campus building constructed on the site of the Westbrook Building which will also house the McMillan, Appleton and Old Buildings.
The new state-of-the-art facility is due to open its doors to students by September next year.
Such is the investment, the college went out to tender this week for companies to help with the £2.8m revamp of its Lister Building, announced late last year. That cash will see the college build an extension at the complex which will house a library, a cafe and an exhibition space.
Both projects will be completed at the same time.
Michele Sutton, its principal and chief executive, said coupled with investment in the two college academies, Appleton and Samuel Lister, the Studio School and a global film school set up in partnership with a leading Asian film training company, Whistling Woods International, it meant exciting times for the college.
“Our architects and project managers who work for the further education sector believe that what we are doing is leading the way with different learning environments and we are way ahead of the game,” she said. “If we add up all our investment besides the £50m on the rebuild, it is about a £100m physical investment.
“This is going to extend to the Learning and Cultural Quarter with the Media Museum and Central Library at one end and the University and Studio School at another end. We also have the motor vehicle centre in Bowling Back Lane and the hair and beauty facilities in Centenary Square.
“We are investing in the skills of people in Bradford and are involved in the regeneration of the city centre.”
Asked about the risk of such huge investments at a time of economic uncertainty, Mrs Sutton said: “To have done nothing may have lost us business. Students come to us having experiences in new schools and people working in new offices experience new technology and are digital natives.
“Playing it safe and doing nothing would have been detrimental to us and our students.”
The College has done its best to involve students with the exciting project with staff and students encouraged to give their ideas on what they think could work regarding their involvement.
So far that has included presentations to the Construction Management Course from Turner & Townsend Project Management Group, who are the official project managers for the £50m project.
Also, the creation of course modules using the new build construction materials for engineering courses and student art work competition to decorate the site hoardings for Art and Design students have been introduced.
Contractors BAM Construction will be at the College Careers Fair in March illustrating the opportunities on offer during the project.
Apprentices from the College have also been employed as Apprentices on site and Metro have worked with the Style Academy and BAM Construction on a new nationwide travel campaign aimed at showing how accessible the district is.
Students also held a barbering event at the cabins on site to spruce up the builders’ hair and all proceeds went to charity.
All of the exciting updates come after a tough few years for the College.
In 2010, the College faced a crushing disappointment when a £120 million transformation plan was rejected at the last hurdle when Government cash ran out.
But last January, college officials were over the moon when the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, gave permission for the new scaled-down project.
The new development will eventually have an area of 23,000 square metres, an overall reduction of 33,000sq m from the original plan.
The remaining college buildings will be sold or put to other use while Lister Building, the Grove Library, Bolton Royd and Trinity Green campus will be retained.
2014 will be a big year with the unveiling and the laying of a Foundation Stone, but 2012 was a landmark year also with the go ahead and the opening of a £300,000 boxing centre last February at the college’s Trinity Green campus.
That centre played a key part in the district’s role providing pre-games training camp facilities for a number of Olympic teams.
At the time, Mrs Sutton said: “In this unique period of Great British sports history, we are delighted to provide this inspiring new boxing training facility for elite performers, while delivering the three key themes of Sport England's strategy: grow, sustain and excel.
“The facilities will provide an internationally-recognised boxing centre that puts itself at the centre of Olympic boxing in Britain.”
The opening of that centre formed part of Bradford Gold, a partnership between Bradford Council, the college, Bradford University, Bradford Bulls, Bradford City and the Community Support network.
It is hoped, as the next exciting chapter unfolds, that the College will further strengthen its business and community links by giving opportunities to local businesses to get involved with the massive overhaul and regeneration at the heart of the Learning Quarter.
Two events at the college include a property forum for building firms, architects and project managers later this month to find out about issues affecting property in Bradford, while contractor BAM Construction is holding an event on February 7 to give businesses a chance to meet the company in overall charge of the building programme. Firms interested in attending the February meeting can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.