PLANS for a town centre university are in the pipeline and the University of the West of England is believed to be the top choice to meet Swindon's higher education needs.

The Advertiser understands that Swindon Council has been in discussions with the University Of The West Of England several times recently.

It is thought the Bristol-based university could be considering North Star, near Swindon College, as the new home for a campus.

Since Bath University pulled out of the running to build at Coate earlier this year the council has been talking to other universities to see if any are interested in moving to Swindon.

UWE deputy vice-chancellor Rob Cuthbert said: "UWE, along with other universities has been involved in preliminary discussions with Swindon Council to which no outcome has yet been reached."

Council leader Roderick Bluh said: "We have been having high level conversations with interested parties and are making progress.

"I personally have always liked the idea of a town centre university, as have a lot of my colleagues.

"A central campus could do a lot for the vibrancy of the town centre and benefit regeneration."

UWE already trains nurses in Swindon with its faculty of health and social care based at the Great Western Hospital.

The university has a strategy of working with local businesses to provide school leavers with the skills needed by local firms.

Vacant brownfield land around Swindon College and the disused Clare's factory site are thought to be the preferred location for a new university.

The trolley manufacturer leased the North Star site from the council until it went into receivership in March, but no plans have yet been announced on how the land will be used.

South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove said: "I am actively working with the council and the minister to find a university on an alternative site."

Council spokesman Richard Freeman said: "There is more than one university being considered at this stage."

However, other neighbouring universities - Bath Spa University, Reading University, the University of Gloucestershire and Oxford Brookes University - have all said they are not considering campuses in Swindon.