SWINDON’S hopes of its own university campus were last night dealt a terrible blow when the main backers of the project confirmed they were pulling out.

The University of West England (UWE) blamed Government spending cuts for the decision.

UWE said it could not fund the project because the hoped-for money from the Higher Education Funding Council or the Regional Development Agency (RDA) was no longer available.

The campus was viewed as a golden opportunity to stimulate the town’s economy with hi-tech training facilities, links with businesses and inward investment for jobs.

The UWE decision follows the refusal by the Secretary of State For Communities and Local Government in August last year to grant the university permission to build a campus on land near Coate Water.

John Rushforth, UWE’s deputy vice-chancellor, said: “Of course it’s a disappointment, having worked with folk in Swindon we can see the need, see the potential, we have got a terrific model.

“Although the RDA has said it would be great, it’s just that nobody is prepared to get the money up to make it work.”

After the failure to build at Coate, UWE propossed a campus in the town centre with the backing of the council. This bid was judged good enough to go forward by the Government’s University Challenge bidding programme.

It was one of six university projects identified for funding due to become available later this year.

But Mr Rushforth said this was before the recession and the strain on public finances, which has led to funding cuts.

UWE now plans to launch higher education programmes for the workplace in Swindon and is already in discussion with some of the major employers in the town, although he could not comment on who they are.

During the Coate Water planning inquiry Mr Rushforth did say the university had discussed possible links with 40 employers around Swindon, including Honda, Motorola, Zurich, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Mr Rushforth said: “It won’t be quite the same as we’d originally planned.”

They hope to run higher education schemes within these offices to be paid for by the employer and employee.

Mr Rushforth said the timescale for setting this up would depend very much on the engagement of the business community.

He added: “We’re not walking away from Swindon. On hold is probably how I’d put it.”