British university to offer classes in Roseville in 2018

A British university said Tuesday it plans to start offering classes in Roseville in 2018, the precursor to a major campus it expects to build in Placer County over the next 15 years.

Officials with the University of Warwick, in a presentation to the Placer County Board of Supervisors, said the school expects to begin recruiting students next year for two graduate programs that would launch in 2018. The university, whose main campus is in Coventry, England, is scouting temporary locations in Roseville for those two programs. A larger, permanent campus would come later.

Warwick’s governing council agreed in early 2015 to develop a 6,000-student campus on farmland west of Roseville, with the project fully built out by 2031. Until Tuesday, though, the university hadn’t said how soon it would start taking students.

Bob Hogg, the university’s director of business development, said Warwick plans to start small. Its student body would number in the dozens in the first year, with faculty flown in from England on a temporary basis. He said Warwick can’t divulge the planned fields of study until it has approval from state higher-education regulators.

Beyond that, he said Warwick is on track to “put the first stake in the ground” on the permanent campus in 2019 or 2020.

Placer officials have tried for years to attract a major college campus to the county, and welcomed the news that Warwick’s plans are inching closer to fruition. “It’s kind of like a new business startup – nothing’s guaranteed,” said Robert Weygandt, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “But I’m really impressed.”

The announcement, however, comes amid uncertainty about the viability of far-flung satellite campuses. Philadelphia’s Drexel University held its final graduation ceremonies in Sacramento last month, capping a failed seven-year experiment. Separately, plans for a satellite campus operated by Sacramento State and Sierra College at the Placer Ranch development site near Roseville have been in limbo since a development company pulled out of the project last fall.

Warwick officials, however, have maintained their commitment to building a big campus in Placer County. Hogg said the university has spoken with Drexel officials about their decision to pull out of Sacramento and is adamant that the Placer project can attract enough students to make the project viable.

“We are convinced that there is more than ample demand,” Hogg said.

As part of the university’s announcement, the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council released a report predicting the Warwick project would generate $584 million in economic impact by its 10th year of operation. The report, by the consulting firm Applied Economics, said the campus would create 1,250 jobs and $110 million in payroll.

The university would build its permanent campus on a 1,159-acre parcel donated in 2012 by a partnership led by the family of Sacramento real estate developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos. About half the land would be developed with homes and businesses, with proceeds from the development going to build the campus. The campus would take up the other half of the parcel.

The Applied Economics report said building the campus would cost $1.5 billion over 10 years.

The land development has made the project controversial at times. When the idea first emerged more than a decade ago, environmentalists charged that Tsakopoulos was using a college campus as a means of securing approvals for land development. In 2006, the family contributed $200,000 to an unsuccessful effort to defeat a county supervisor who had raised questions about the plan.

“We are gratified by all the local support and will continue to work in partnership with university officials as they prepare their first course offerings in Roseville and advance plans for a permanent campus west of Roseville,” said Tsakopoulos’ son Kyriakos, president of the University Development Foundation, a nonprofit leading the effort.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler