The University's governing body has given senior managers the go-ahead to pursue the possibility of establishing a new research-led campus in West Sussex, which will complement the existing Falmer campus. Council decided at its meeting on 2 July that any further work should focus on a site in Crawley, rather than one in Horsham that had originally been considered.
The vision for the new campus is based on a mix of world-class science, technology and business, with research and teaching focused on the needs of business and industry.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alasdair Smith, said: "This is an innovative and exciting opportunity, in keeping with Sussex's radical tradition of developing new approaches to higher education. There is still a long way to go to make this a reality. But by working together with business and the wider community, Sussex can make a real contribution to the future success of the region."
An initial study by business advisors KPMG has shown a gap in higher-education provision in the area, as well as exciting opportunities to offer research, teaching and business development to meet local and regional business needs and strengthen the region's economy and international status.
Based on the region's growing economy, the areas for teaching and research could include automotive and aviation engineering, pharma/biosciences, computing and information technology, and business and management.
The development would incorporate business-incubation facilities drawing on the growing reputation of the Sussex Innovation Centre and would be a centrepiece of the 'Gatwick Diamond', launched on 8 July by the West Sussex and Surrey Economic Partnerships.
The campus would offer undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, but would seek to deliver teaching in innovative ways. This could include 'fast-track' degree courses (completed in two years rather than three), modular learning to meet the needs of continuing professional development, and e-learning opportunities.
The plans, which are still at the evaluation stage, identify a 150-acre site that would accommodate up to 4,000 students and 800 members of staff, drawn from both the region and internationally. Research and business facilities would also be accommodated on the site, which is formerly managed woodland adjacent to Tilgate Park.
The land has been identified as an area for a significant development benefiting the Crawley area and would be carefully developed in keeping with the University's experience of managing environmentally sensitive sites. It is a preferred choice because of its development potential, first-class transport and communication links and centrality to the region's population and economy.
The feasibility study also suggests that the proposals would have the support of local and regional organisations, who would view it as an opportunity to enhance the region's skills base and economic potential.
Crawley businessman John Peel, director of the West Sussex Economic Partnership and an independent member of the University's Council, said: "A collaborative approach which attracts world class research, supports new business development and strengthens the skills of the workforce is a fantastic opportunity for the region."
Support for the educational element of the estimated £300 million development costs would have to come from funding bodies including the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), but the bulk of the total funding would be drawn from the private sector.