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19/07/2012 | Webreality

Jersey: the new Harvard?

It’s time for me to put my neck on the block and invite you to chop my head off.

For some time I’ve been mulling an idea that seems to me to have great potential for addressing some of the big strategic challenges facing Jersey.

I’ve canvassed opinion broadly from friends and contacts in business and politics, and the response to this idea has been positive.

So here’s the health warning: this is a big idea. Massive, in fact. So big, that it is one of those ones that’s easiest to drop into the “too difficult” tray and walk away.

But I want to challenge you to try and imagine that it’s possible.

Why NOT do it?

I keep trying to break the idea, and there are plenty of ways to do that if you’re of sceptical disposition, but I still see too many potential positives to let it die.

So now I want to invite comment and criticism more widely.

Rather than write a long, indigestible article or essay, I’ve broken it down into chunks, lists and bullets.

Have a read, and then please throw the comments at me.

Some big challenges facing Jersey

  1. Achieving economic growth and diversification
  2. High cost and small size means Jersey has to remain a brains-driven economy
  3. How to populate the island with brilliant minds, mid-term?
  4. How to retain home-grown brilliant minds?
  5. How to stimulate the economy with high potential start-ups?
  6. How to sustain sufficient airline traffic to keep fares low to benefit tourism industry and local residents?
  7. How to make top quality university education more easily accessible to local students as costs rise?
  8. How to make “Digital Jersey” a reality?

The solution

A 20 year strategy to put a world-class educational institution at the heart of Jersey’s economy and community.

The proposal

The University of Jersey, specialising in high value industry-related subjects, operated and branded by world-leading US educational establishment, eg “Stanford Jersey”.

The plan

  1. States of Jersey to invite tenders from world’s top 20 universities to operate the University of Jersey, based on a proposed strategic operating plan and architectural plans for new campus 
  2. States to invest a portion of the Strategic Reserve to build new state-of-the-art infrastructure for a university campus, including teaching and residential facilities
  3. Terms of tender to require operator to staff the University with a defined percentage of senior existing teaching staff to achieve immediate academic credibility
  4. States to lease campus to operator at peppercorn rent for first 20 years
  5. University to specialise in four main pillars of curriculum: finance, technology, law and medicine, chosen for high commercial value graduates they will produce; finance to lead as an obvious fit with Jersey’s existing jurisdictional brand
  6. Aim to attract brilliant students from Scandinavia, Europe, Middle East and Africa to get top class degree from US university without needing to move to US for 3 years plus
  7. Aim to grow curriculum in areas of potential strategic fit with other opportunities for Jersey, eg “Renewable energy” within “Technology” 
  8. Reduced fees for Jersey-resident students
  9. Income tax breaks for first three years for alumni (graduate or not) who stay in Jersey and earn or start businesses after leaving University
  10. Use the infrastructure to benefit the economy and community through academic and business conferencing events.

Politics - the positives

  • Economic diversification is almost universally popular
  • Education is a non-controversial, non-cyclical sector, popular with all shades of political opinion.

Politics - the challenges

  • Immigration is THE hot potato of the moment, and the plan would result in inward migration of several hundred staff, plus approx 1500 students in cycles of several years
  • Jersey is very risk-averse, especially where it comes to investing the Strategic Reserve.

Barking mad, or something better? Please let me know.