University of New England's new college

THE UNIVERSITY of New England’s new college doesn’t have a name yet, but one thing is for certain, it will be the swankiest address in the college precinct.

Student digs are going “up-market”, offering en-suites and kitchenettes in individual studio and one-bedroom apartments in an attempt to attract those looking for something more than the traditional colleges currently offer.

Chancellor John Watkins and vice-chancellor Jim Barber ceremonially turned the first sods on the new development adjacent to Duval College on Friday and said the official start of construction was a milestone moment for the university.

Professor Barber and chief operating officer David Cushway told the crowd the new college was the first part of a wider strategy to upgrade facilities and attract more students.

“This is the first step in the development of a broader strategic plan,” Mr Cushway said.

“We will revisit all of the colleges in the college precinct to identify what students’ demands are and try to meet those demands.”

Mr Cushway said the new college will offer a “point of difference” for students.

Naturally, with better facilities comes a higher price, but Mr Cushway said it won’t be out of the reach of many students.

“There’s not going to be much difference in the cost,” Mr Cushway said. “To students $2 is a lot and we’re mindful of that.

“But there are those who move off campus because they find [colleges] don’t meet their needs and we’re targeting them, as well as students who want something different.”

One of the biggest issues for the university beyond the development of the new college is the fate of some of the older colleges.

There are still doubts over the future of Robb College, which needs some work to bring it into line with safety requirements.

But contrary to some rumours about its possible demise as a college, Mr Cushway said Robb is here to stay; in what form remains to be seen.

“We’re committed to Robb College and its alumni,” he said.

Mr Cushway said the university is constantly speaking with Robb staff and former students about how to address the college’s issues, but is confident the university will be able to deliver the required upgrades to the building to allow it to remain in its current guise.

If that isn’t possible Mr Cushway said there are many other options available.

Other colleges will also get an upgrade in time with the new college due for completion in July 2014.

The university doesn’t know what it will call the new college but is keen to talk to any benefactors who might give their name to it.

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