University of York Vice-Chancellor Brian Cantor has denied that the Heslington East expansion project has had any negative effects on the University.
When asked at a public briefing whether the amount of time or money spent on the expansion was damaging the quality of the University, Cantor said: “I don’t think the quality of the University has deteriorated in any sense at all in that period, in fact on the world tables we’ve gone up. I don’t really accept the premise so I can’t honestly say that the Heslington East expansion has had any bad impact on us.”
At the time the project was given government permission it had already cost over £2m in planning and legal fees and is set to have a final cost of approximately £500m.
Cantor’s assertion was disputed by a senior academic administrator. Speaking on the condition of anonymity they said the claim that the University was unaffected by the expansion was “nonsense.” They added: “It is difficult to see how he would know what impact it’s having on a department with students when he so rarely ventures out of Heslington Hall. He does appear to be very out of touch.”
Cantor spoke at the February 28 briefing alongside Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Estates Elizabeth Heaps and Heslington East Project Director Jon Meacock. He stressed that the expansion was vital to maintain the quality of the University saying: “The biggest problem at the moment on this campus has been, in all the time I’ve been here, that the University is essentially full on this site without further building. We’ve been building where we can and the building we’ve been doing here has been quite disruptive because we’ve reached our footprint allocation here.”
On confessing the current Heslington West campus to have reached the upper limit of its sustainability, the Vice Chancellor was questioned regarding the future sustainability of the next campus development. Replying that a strategic plan was in place, he confessed he would be “suprised” if sustainability was not a key feature of the Heslington East project.
Cantor also used the briefing to try and address widely-held concerns that the expansion, which will increase the student population from 10,000 to 14,500, would end the University’s “small campus feel”. He said: “the University is a small university by British standards and we have no intention to become a big university. We don’t intend to become big and individually departments will not become mega-size so the aspirations are to grow to a sustainable size which I think will retain our distinctive character as a relatively small, friendly collegiate university that works well together.”
There have also been concerns that the new development will lead to not only a larger, but a divided campus. However, Cantor was keen to quell such fears: “I want to emphasise one important message,” he said, “that the extension of the campus on Heslington East snd the present site on Heslington West will form one campus. It’s very important that we maintain a strong sense of University community across our campus even though we have grown.”
While some preliminary building on the Heslington East site has already begun the University is awaiting council permission before it can begin constructing the first parts of the new Goodricke College. The council is expected to make a decision on April 24.