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At a crowded session on the first afternoon of the ACLE on August 31, Professor Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of the University of Northampton, launched to a group of leather industry executives and leather school alumni the plans for the new University International Centre for Leather.
It was first explained that to meet the evolving demands of modern education in terms of areas such as student experience and teaching and learning systems the University had decided to bring its two separate out of town campuses together into a large vacant industrial site in the City Centre.
Building will start early in 2016 and the new facilities should be ready for occupation sometime in 2018. Accommodation for 4500 of the near 15000 students will be built on the Campus with others already erected close by in the town centre.
The new Campus will allow associated areas such as fashion and leather, which until now have been on separate campuses to work more closely together and a booklet was distributed highlighting new fashion and footwear and fashion and leather courses.
The International Leather Centre is even more ambitious than this as it also adds into the same premises the Leather Conservation Centre which currently resides on Park Campus and the International Museum of Leathercraft which is in temporary accommodation in the city.
Rachel Garwood, Director of the University of Northampton's Institute for Creative Leather said: "The close juxtaposing of all the aspects of the supply chain means that each will be enriched by the others, allowing new relationships and creative ideas to be generated. In this way, those ideas will be future-proofed. The proposed Centre will become the world's 'one stop shop' for information, insight and inspiration, making Northamptonshire the most important global source of leather and leather related information."
The project, according to the University, is a bold vision linking academia with industry, the environment, fashion and cultural heritage: there will be nothing like this anywhere else in the world. In making this point the Vice Chancellor said the University has been aided by the current availability of low cost money which along with the University's own reserves would cover the costs. However, there was a Sterling £20 million (US$28 million) shortfall of which about £10 million (US$14 million) related to the leather project.
For the International Centre for Leather to succeed he needed the University's industry partners and alumni to support the funding objectives with financial support and with clear statements that the plans would meet future needs. With strong industry support for the plans the University could go with confidence to seek funds from other external donors, the Government and the EU.
Around 35 people attended the event.