MORE than one leading university is considering bringing higher education to the town.

Swindon Council is in negotiations with higher education providers in a desperate bid to push the town's university plans forward, but says it wants to make sure the right candidate is picked.

Council leader Rod Bluh, said he could not reveal the identities of the universities as talks were ongoing but that he remained optimistic a deal could be struck.

He said: "We have spoken to one or two universities, but investment is far from certain at this stage.

"Since the discussions with Bath were withdrawn we have been actively working to determine what sort of provision of university education is appropriate for Swindon going forward.

"We have been very clear in what we are looking for and are very optimistic.

"We have been having discussions with various universities, but this is about what is best for Swindon not what is best for developers.

"We want to make sure we get the best education establishments into the town."

Coun Bluh said the council would be working with the town's MPs to try and secure the future of a Swindon university. "This is a great example of cross party politics working at its best. I have already been working closely with Michael Wills on this and Ann Snelgrove is also concerned about exactly the same issues," said Coun Bluh.

Speaking in Parliament on Friday, South Swindon MP Mrs Snelgrove said she was concerned about the delay.

She asked the Secretary of State for the newly formed Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, to help the town find a replacement for Bath.

Mrs Snelgrove asked the House of Commons whether Mr Denham shared her "disappointment that the University of Bath has pulled out of developing five campuses in Swindon.

"Will his department help us to identify an excellent replacement for the University of Bath, so that we do not have to rely on the developers finding us one?" she said.

Last month, developers for the Coate Water site said a university was still central to the scheme.

The altered plans, which were shown to members of the public last month, show the canal running through the centre of the 60-hectare campus and a reduced business park. Planning consultants DPDS said there had been high level talks with one university in June but kept tight-lipped about who it was.

The Advertiser revealed the University of Bath was pulling out of the controversial plan to build a campus at Coate Water in February. The university cited issues with the amount of land and fears that Government higher education funding was moving away from new campuses and towards extending existing colleges.

North Swindon MP Michael Wills, who helped convince the Government to finance the University of Bath in Swindon, stressed that it was important for Swindon to get a new university in place as soon as possible or face losing funding. "I have always thought it was very important to have the right university," he said. "Since Bath pulled out we have come close to losing that dream. The council urgently needs to secure a replacement.

"If we don't get a move on then both capital and revenue funding will go elsewhere and we could miss out."

l See Page 25 for news on Swindon Council's town centre refurbishment.