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Arts college move could improve higher education opportunities for young people

Education opportunities for young people in Herefordshire are looking better than ever as plans to relocate the higher education department at Herefordshire College of Arts (HCA) are on the table. 

A three-way deal between the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC), Hereford College of Arts and Herefordshire Council is nearing a positive conclusion.  The deal could help secure the future of the Royal National College, provide a much better university-style campus for higher education students, attract foreign students to the city and consolidate the council’s children’s services onto a single site.

At the moment, Hereford College of Arts (HCA) occupies ex-Bulmers premises on Whitecross Road and the Media Centre on Bath Street in Hereford.  However, space is limited and not always suitable for studios and workshops.  The Royal National College for the Blind has recently reviewed how it uses its campus, resulting in a move out of its historic redbrick building into the more modern, purpose built facilities across the road at thePoint4 on Venns Lane, which is also part of the College campus.

HCA still has leases on the two properties in the city centre, but Herefordshire Council has offered to take these leases on a short term in order to vacate its Bath Street premises.  This would enable the college of art to move to the Royal National College Campus on College Road.

Cllr Phillip Price, cabinet member for corporate services, said: ‘’This represents a unique opportunity for the council to accelerate the rationalisation of its corporate estate and make use of modern, fit-for-purpose accommodation.

“The flexibility offered by taking on the two leases will enable us to plan effectively within a rapidly changing environment and not tie up resources in expensive costly to maintain buildings. It will also help to support the long term future planning of two organisations that play a key role in supporting Herefordshire’s future.”

Sheila Tallon, RNC Principal stated; “Our students are already benefiting from the move of the majority of our teaching to our Venns Lane campus, whilst still enjoying our industry standard performance and recording studios on College Road.  Both staff and students are really excited about working with such a highly regarded college and the extra dimension we believe it will bring to the learning experience.   Students from both colleges are already collaborating on joint projects.” 

Richard Heatly, Principal of HCA commented;  “We can see huge potential in moving all our HE students into the only building in Hereford that already looks like a university! We already have very successful HE courses at HCA, but Hereford is not yet a university city – so this move will definitely help us to attract students to come here both from around the country and internationally as well.

“The fact that bespoke student accommodation is available at RNC is another major advantage for us, along with the massive increase in space and resources it will offer. And on top of that we can see big opportunities in working together with RNC, a leading specialist in their field as we are in our own area of the creative arts.”

If the plans go ahead, it is hoped that Hereford College of Arts can move onto the College Road campus quickly in order to begin the new term there in October 2013.  There are also plans to boost graduate start up opportunities and bring Brightstripe, a newly set up community interest group focusing on culture and sports, on to the site.