BLACKBURN College has unveiled plans to become a fully-fledged higher education centre.

College principal Ian Clinton said he wanted to expand the range of university courses offered at the Fielden Street site in conjunction with the East Lancashire Institute of Higher Education.

The ambitious plans fit with the transformation of Blackburn College into a “world class campus” as work continues apace on the final two development phases of a £35million development.

Mr Clinton said: “Last year was Blackburn College’s most successful year with 29 first class honour degrees all delivered at our East Lancashire Institute of Higher Education.

“Building on this success and our growing relationship with the local business community, it is our intention to expand our university level courses.

“Our new higher education building will be completed by September next year in order to accommodate an anticipated 30 per cent rise in the number of students and over the next year the college will also be seeking Foundation Degree awarding powers.

“The college is keen to support the development of University provision across the whole of Pennine Lancashire in partnership with other local colleges.”

The first phase of the building work was completed last September, with the opening of the £8.8million St Paul’s Centre for IT and sixth form facilities, while phase two, the construction of a £13million higher education building off Barbara Castle Way, is well under way.

Phases three and four will see the creation of a mechanics workshop, and the construction of the new main college building.

Phase three will see the creation of a £4million, 2,500 square metre automotive centre housing a mechanical workshop, which will act as a commercial venture combined with teaching facilities.

Currently at design stage, the development is set for completion by September 2009.