Letter: Time to revisit university idea for Halifax

MEP Amjad BASHIR
MEP Amjad BASHIR

Your readers may recall that some years ago there was much talk of Halifax becoming a university town.

The idea was that Calderdale College would provide the base for a Halifax campus as a satellite to one of our existing neighbouring universities - Bradford, Leeds Metropolitan or Huddersfield.

For some reason the idea, having seemingly developed a head of steam, petered out and disappeared from the local agenda.

Surely now is the ideal time to revive the initiative and explore afresh the potential benefits that bringing higher education to this town could create.

In considering this, let us just pause to take stock of where Halifax stands.

The three major public-works projects that have occupied our efforts over the best part of a decade are done or almost done.

The Shay is now completed as a fine community stadium and a credit to the town, instead of an embarrassing eyesore.

Broad Street is open for business and bringing in the footfall, showing this is a town that gets things done.

Before long a restored, repurposed Piece Hall will be reopened - not only a monument to Halifax’s industrial past but also a showcase for her vibrant, cool and cultural future.

On top of that, our biggest employer - the Halifax - has ridden out the turbulence of the banking crisis and merger with Lloyds and continues to provide an important core of quality jobs to our employment base

Halifax has a lot to be proud of.

But that makes this the very time to start looking at the next big challenge, the next major step forward.

To my mind the very best move would be to get the university scheme back on track.

Advanced learning is good for its own sake and because it provides the skills and knowledge a competitive economy need.

How good it would be to make degree-level education available to families here in Halifax who prefer to keep their youngsters close to them rather than ship them off to other towns or cities for a degree.

More than that, though, having university teaching here will bring massive benefits even to those who never go near a seminar or lecture theatre.

You only have to look over the hill at Huddersfield to see the huge economic benefits higher education brings. Not only does it create jobs directly, it brings millions into the town through the spending power of students from all over the country and the globe.

From its own humble beginnings as a technical college and then a polytechnic, Huddersfield University has become a massive cog in the town’s economic engine. The same is true in Bradford and twice over in Leeds.

Surely what is good enough for these places should be good enough for Halifax.

As your MEP I stand ready to do whatever I can to help this process and to use whatever political channels I can to gain support.

But it has to be something for Halifax to decide - do we want this opportunity or not? I am eager to hear your answer.

Amjad Bashjir MEP (Con, Yorkshire and Humber)