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University opens doors to STEM students as landmark construction nears completion

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane Longmore completing the last section of concrete

A TRADITIONAL topping-out ceremony has taken place at the University of Chichester’s £35m Engineering and Digital Technology Park on its Bognor Regis Campus.

In a ritual believed to date back centuries Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane Longmore poured oil and wine and scattered corn and salt over the highest point of the building before completing the last section of concrete with a hand trowel. The historic moment was witnessed by members of the University’s Board of Governors, senior executives of the construction company, Galliford Try, and other members of the construction team.

Professor Longmore, pictured, said that the Engineering and Digital Technology Park will specialise in STEM subjects and, on the eve of the Year of Engineering, will help to drive the much-needed regeneration of the coastal region, providing educational opportunities for a broad range of students and jobs in sectors identified as a priority in the government’s recent Industrial Strategy. Opening next September, the Technology Park aims to attract 500 undergraduates and postgraduates to the University every year by 2021.

Engineering and Digital Technology Park cutaway of construction

Professor Longmore added: “By combining engineering and design with creative and digital technology in one state-of-the-art development, we will equip graduates with the enterprise skills, creativity and technical knowledge to enter the workforce. The Technology Park will help us to deliver our vision of making our region a place where businesses, large and small, can thrive, create jobs, and where people can access the very best education and training opportunities.”

The topping-out ceremony was attended by engineering student Louise Grainger, below left, from the University’s integrated foundation course launched this year to make STEM degrees more accessible. The 19-year-old, who will progress onto one of the Technology Park’s undergraduate degrees when it opens next autumn, said: “I’m so excited that I will take my first steps into engineering in such an incredible place.

“I’ve always dreamt of one day working for a motor sports or F1 team and now I feel that I can achieve that ambition. The Technology Park will give me the opportunities that I’ve never had before and I can’t wait to start learning in its laboratories and workshops.”

Engineering student Louise Grainger of the University’s integrated foundation course

The University development will introduce a department of Engineering and Design, providing a machine shop as well as fabricating and mechanical engineering laboratories. This will be built alongside a department of Creative and Digital Technologies with a 300 square-metre film production studio, a 100 square-metre special effects room, and recording studio.

The Technology Park has been supported and part-funded with an £8million grant from the government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, which works to encourage economic growth across the region. Its Chief Executive Jonathan Sharrock said: “The technological sector in the Coast to Capital region is one of the most advanced in the country and addressing the skills deficit is vital to its continued success.

“We are thrilled to be a part of the Engineering and Digital Technology Park project which will provide students with high quality education, equipping them with the technical skills they need to enter the modern digital workforce. We look forward to seeing future developments and seeing the wider benefits of this project.”

The development has so far received the backing from over 40 industry organisations, including Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Sony and URT Group, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises which have declared a shortage of workers with STEM skills. Additional financial contributors include the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) which provided £2.7million of funding.

Yvonne Hawkins, Director, Universities and Colleges at HEFCE, said: “I am very pleased to see the Park nearing completion. It will not only help the University to become a catalyst for improving participation in science, technology, engineering, and maths in the area, but will also play an important role in developing graduates with the engineering and scientific skills needed to help the UK remain globally competitive.”

To find out more about the plans for the Engineering and Digital Technology Park at the University of Chichester visit www.chi.ac.uk/techpark. Alternatively for questions about the construction and its proposed timeframe email techpark@chi.ac.uk.