Last year, work began on the development of a new University Centre for Hastings following the University of Brighton’s decision to replace its current Hastings campus

The new University Centre in Hastings is on course to open its doors to new recruits this September. Building work to develop the fifth floor at Sussex Coast College’s Station Plaza campus is well underway, with floor plans and details of additional teaching space, recreational, and leisure areas being unveiled earlier in May.

Once complete, the 1,380 metre square space will provide students with an ‘exceptional’ university experience and give them brand new lecture rooms, study areas, two art studios, common rooms, and a Student Union to enjoy. All of this will be added to the already well equipped Station Plaza campus, which boasts a large Learning Resource Centre, Subway, Coffee Shop, Fine Dining Restaurant, college canteen, and a Gym.

The University Centre will offer over 20 Higher Education courses; 6 full BA (Hons) courses in Art & Design, including Photography, Illustration, and Fine Art. 3 BSc (Hons) in Engineering, Computing and Business, and a range of HNC and HND level courses in Business, Engineering, Computing, Health and Social Care, Beauty, and Teacher Training.

So far, the contractors have installed the electrics and flooring, and the college has ordered all the furniture, teaching equipment, and computers. The second phase of construction is due to start in the coming weeks.

Sussex Coast College Hastings has invested £100,000 into the development of the new space, and has secured a further £100,000 grant from the Higher Education Funding Council’s Catalyst Fund.

The bid for the Catalyst Fund has been supported by University of Brighton, and in line with its on-going commitment to support the development of the new University Centre, the University of Brighton has also provided additional loan funding to ensure that the building work can be completed by September.

Professor Chris Pole, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Brighton said: “We are delighted to support the new University Centre which will provide continuing access to Higher Education in Hastings on a sustainable basis. The funding we have helped to secure will ensure that the University Centre is up and running for the start of the new academic year in September. We will continue to support our colleagues at Sussex Coast College with the validation of their growing programme of Higher Education course provision.”

Here, SBT hears all about the upgrade and speaks to, Clive Cook, Principal of Sussex Coast College Hastings

SBT: The time for students to make the all-important decisions on what they will be doing come September is creeping upon us. What is Sussex Coast College Hastings doing to assist students in this process?

Clive Cooke: The college is promoting significantly the courses and career opportunities of the university centre, locally and regionally across Sussex.  All applicants have unlimited opportunities to meet with university centre staff to discuss their training needs and career aspirations, and to see if the university centre is the right choice for them.  Everyone is treated individually and our aim is to find the most suitable course for each and every student.  Our overriding aim is for students to achieve their fullest potential while studying with us and during their course we work closely with each student to help move them to higher education or employment.

SBT: The amount of students who make their way into full-time employment/apprenticeships straight from college rather than taking on Higher Education courses has rapidly increased over the last few years. How closely does Sussex Coast College Hastings work with local businesses to create these opportunities for students?

CC: College staff work hand-in-glove with employers across Sussex.  We have a team of people on the road meeting with employers every day of every week to identify whether businesses have opportunities for apprentices.  All of our teachers are professionals in their sector, ranging from Engineering to Hospitality & Catering, and liaise all year round with contacts to create apprenticeship and employment opportunities for their students.

We have developed a range of Higher Apprenticeships that provide employers and their employees with an opportunity to gain a higher level qualification while earning a wage and gaining experience. These are available in Engineering, IT, Business, Hospitality, and Care. Local employers Technotur, Marshall Tufflex and Pyecross Precision have all taken on their first Higher Apprenticeships apprentice with the college this year.

Finally, the college convenes regularly with employers, which comprises of lead employers from each sector, eg social and child care, construction, to identify opportunities for our students.  Annually we are delighted to host Amber Rudd’s job fair that welcomes many employers offering career opportunities to both our students and the local community.

SBT: Are there any local businesses in particular you work closely with?

CC: We are proud to be working with many Sussex employers, across the main employment sectors in the county. These range from large employers, such as Hastings Direct, local Councils, and healthcare trusts, to a host of engineering firms, including British Gypsum, and local IT companies, such as Beaming. We have also recently started working with a number of Apprenticeship levy employers including Conveyencing Direct to support them with their wider learning and development needs, that include apprenticeship delivery for new or existing staff.

SBT: What do you find are the subjects most in demand for future employment?

CC: All of our courses are popular, because we continually flex our course portfolio to meet changing demand by our students and employers.  It is interesting to note that each year different subject areas are more heavily in demand than others.  Currently, our Art and Design, and Engineering courses are heavily subscribed, as well as our academic A-Level subjects.

SBT: What does Sussex Coast College Hastings provide students from across the region with that they might not get from other Sussex colleges?

CC: The college has stunning campuses and facilities that are unrivalled across Sussex.  All students love being able to study in such wonderful buildings with such great resources.  Our teachers are first class and are all top professionals from their field.  Plus, once our University Centre launches in September, we will be able to offer additional and dedicated learning and leisure spaces for our HE students to ensure that they have the full University experience.

SBT: Can you tell us about any of the College’s plans for the future once the new University Centre Hastings has been completed?

CC: We have many exciting plans coming up. In the more immediate future we’re hosting an Open Morning on Saturday 1st July for anyone interested in studying a degree with us. They can come and have a look around the college, chat to our expert tutors, and preview the new university centre space on the fifth floor. We’ll also be holding a festival of learning, where people can come and try out a range of part-time courses. Over the coming months we’ll also be busy piloting our online courses, so that people can study from their home or workplace. There are so many people that want to come to the college but simply don’t have the time with family and career commitments, so this will ensure they can still study with us.

We are working with local employers and stakeholders in the Hastings & Rother Economic Taskforce to ensure that the Higher Education offer, including both degrees and higher apprenticeships, meets current and future skills needs. If we are missing something, then please get in touch and we will feed this into our planning.