Tag: North Star

Housing a university

Mr Tomlinson seem rather poorly informed about his own council’s plans for the town centre. The University of the West of England has long-term plans for a campus of up to 10,000 students in Swindon. Those plans are very long term according to the university’s Mr Rushforth, quoted in the Adver.

Ideally we would like to see some headway on [a town centre site] within the next year. Obviously within such a short time period that would be in the form of something like a drop-in centre. It would take around three to four years before we could open the site, and we would be looking at around 1,000 students to begin with, rising to five or six thousand. Given our ambitions we would hope over a 20-year or so period to get something like 10,000 students.

Assuming some of those students are local, it would be an equally long time before there would need to be overspill from a North Star campus, which Swindon Borough Council’s Central Area Action Plan estimates could provide a campus for 7,000. At the alternative site near Coate there’s even more space. Even if the estimate for North Star is rather generous, which it seems to be, so are most universities’ estimates of their own growth potential. The University of the West of England’s ambitions correspond to it growing by 33% from its current 30,000 students — not much evidence of modest predictions there.

So why is Mr Tomlinson worrying about the effect a university might have on housing?

I am concerned about affordable accommodation being hoovered up by landlords wanting to attract students. One of the things that makes Swindon attractive… is the cost of housing and I am worried about the effect a university would have on that, and whether we would see businesses leaving Swindon. If they could build a campus for 10,000 students I would have less concern.

That looks like a bad case of compassionate ignorance to me. Being concerned for the socially disadvantaged may be a virtue; ignorance of the plans of an administration that he was, until the end of last week, a member, is not.

Tempting fate

You’d think that, with the reputation large public-sector computing projects have for being late and over-budget, any public body would want to avoid headlines blagging about multi-million pound savings from some new gee-whizz integrated computer system. Wiltshire County Council clearly has a lot to learn….

Business streamlining project will save up to £11m a year
A project to streamline the way Wiltshire County Council supports front-line services has taken a significant step forward.
Members of the county council cabinet have selected Logica to work with it to enable many internal services to be provided much more efficiently.
The business management programme will simplify and standardise the way many processes such as invoicing, procurement, payroll and human resources are undertaken, through the reorganisation of services and the installation of a new, fully integrated computer system.
The move will potentially save the new One Council for Wiltshire between £9m and £11m a year after the initial investment of £8m is repaid.

It’ll only take a little over-optimism on how big the savings will be, combined with some traditional public-sector mismanagement of the computer project, for those savings to shrink to zero.

If you’re going to splurge vast sums of money of IT consultants and feel the need to publicise it, ’tis far wiser to do it somewhere nobody will look.

An educational meal

I have previously commented on others’ experiences of the student-run restaurant at Swindon College. Last Thursday I sampled their offerings for myself. Whoever devised the menu clearly had an obsession with orange. That apart, the chicken and bacon salad starter with chive dressing was a succulent start. The dressing in particular was a pleasant change from the vinegar or oil based dressings in which salads are often drowned. The main course of gammon steak was good but nothing exceptional. The dessert of apple and ginger crumble in caramel cream was a delight, with just the merest hint of ginger, the only disappointment being a less than generous covering of caramel cream. These three dishes were rounded off with a pot of tea.

At just £5 for a midday meal, the restaurant appears popular with the local pensioners. I recommend not waiting quite so long.

A mini university of exaggeration

With a big fanfare (okay, just a press release — ‘Plans for a major university in Swindon have moved a step closer’ — a news article and a short leader article), Swindon Borough Council has announced that The University of the West of England has firmed up its interest in opening a branch in Swindon. We are told that it will be ‘a unique learning institution in the town centre.’ We are also told that it will offer about 3000 places, probably in North Star, primarily for vocational training.

It is intended that the new university will focus on the strengths of the Swindon economy, such as advanced engineering, financial services, ICT, health and social care and the heritage industry.

We will deliver teaching to employees while they work. The courses will be bespoke to the individual needs of employers like Honda and Intel. We are also looking at delivering heritage courses, which aren’t available elsewhere.

That’s about a third of the size of the existing University of Bath in Swindon and covering a very similar range of subjects. It is difficult to see what will be unique about the new campus apart from its minute size. It is quite a feat of exaggeration to describe it as ‘a major university in Swindon’.
Presumably this should mean that the Gateway plans are now dead… unless someone can be persuaded to provide a proper university for Swindon.

Who are we?

In the rush to re-brand itself following Mr Brown’s cabinet reshuffle (one of the aims of which seems to have been to increase the length of acronyms for government departments), the old Department of Trade and Industry has got a little confused over it’s new identity, appearing correctly as the Department of Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform on its homepage, and as the Department of Business, Enterprise and Better Regulation on its About Us page.
(Click the images to enlarge to something readable.)

Elsewhere in the flurry of elongating acronyms, the new Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (the new ruler of Swindon’s Research Councils) is to be commended for the choice of background colour for its website (though not on its ability to distinguish its objectives from those of the old Office of Science and Innovation).

Seeing clearly

I’m not sure how one can miss a huge conifer, but apparently one can.

For operational reasons, it has become necessary to remove one of the conifer trees at the main gate area…. The main gate area will be closed and coned off to all vehicles entering and exiting the site, whilst this work is undertaken.

The tree is being felled because there is a laser link being installed…. Without the link no data or telephony will be available to [quango 1]. The equipment and line of sight is formally agreed between BT and [quango 2].

Unfortunately the installers have now informed us the tree will interfere with the signal and there is no time to change direction on this. I am happy to arrange replanting of 2 new trees elsewhere to rebalance the situation.

Clearly nobody bothered looking along the ‘line of sight’. If they had they’d have noticed their sight obstructed by the tree. As its a conifer, they don’t even have the excuse of the tree being bare if the planning was done in winter. Project planning at its best.


’Tis the twice-a-year event when employees in the public sector get a few letters tagged after their name for that great achievement of just doing their job. This summer’s local winners of a gong are Thorne, Winstanley and Pilcher-Clayton, all either of or recently departed from the Research Councils and… that’s it. To quote from the Cabinet Office

As usual, this Honours List reflects and pays tribute to outstanding achievement and service right across the community and the nation as a whole.

Not much evidence of that here, just public sector nominees.

As in previous lists a key aim has been to reward those who work and serve at the sharp end – people who have really changed things, or who have given outstanding service to others in difficult situations.

There’s nought sharp about sitting in an office in Swindon.

All the names in the list (946) have been nominated by the public or expert organisations.

I can almost hear the sound of hearty backslapping from here.

As a further means of giving public recognition, the new Emblem has been introduced; already more than 3,000 have been sold.

Sounds like one of those things where those most deserving of recognition (those that have ‘helped others in difficult situations’) are most likely to be of such humility that they would not dream of wearing it. NuLabour, commercialising old British traditions. Nice.

Not quite a free lunch

The Adver reports that students from Swindon College set an impressive standard when given the run of the kitchens at the Chiseldon House Hotel. However, there’s no need to go that far. They provide a similar service at a restaurant in their North Star campus. Some colleagues of mine went there last week and were very impressed with both the quality and the price. Well worth making a booking for those working in the offices clustered north of Swindon town centre.