AN ENHANCED learning experience will be on offer to students as New College Durham is given a complete makeover for the twenty-fiirst century.

The former technical college is to settle on a single campus, at its Framwellgate Moor site, which is to undergo a £35m redevelopment over the next two-and-a-half years.

Planning permission has been granted by Durham City Council and work is now under way on the 23-acre site.

The project is being phased in stages, to allow courses to continue unhindered, but the entire site should be complete by the start of autumn term in 2005.

It will be home to all the college's 2,500 full-time students and a further 5,000 on part-time courses, although it is hoped the improved facilities will be also used at weekends and at other non-traditional times.

The revamped college will take in all the existing higher education and residential courses run at its other existing campus at Nevilles Cross, which is being sold off for a mixed residential and office development.

Proceeds of the sale will part fund the development at Framwellgate Moor, along with grant assistance from the Learning and Skills Council and other funds the college can generate.

Outline planning permission has also been granted for a residential block, just off the Sacriston Road entrance at Framwellgate Moor, for up to 150 first year students on the college's teaching courses.

The Nevilles Cross site will be gradually run down over the next 18 months and by the start of the academic year 2004/5 all students should be based at Framwellgate Moor.

Principal John Widdowson believes the development will make New College among the most attractive options for would-be students across the region.

"It will be the most modern college campus development in the North, indeed in the whole country, one of only a handful of this size and nature in England in the next few years.

"What we are trying to do is provide the best facilities for the students. It's not just about competition, it's providing accommodation staff and students deserve."

Work is beginning with the creation of a technology centre before the main teaching building is developed to give the feel of a modern shopping mall.

Further plaans include a higher education block and a new sports hall, with on-site parking for up to 900 cars.