THE University of York may open a new foundation college on campus to cater for international students, prior to them starting degree courses.

The project, which would be a joint venture between the university and a commercial partner called Into Education Partnerships, could mean an additional 700 overseas students coming to York.

About 60 per cent of them would be expected to move subsequently into York’s degree programmes, while others would move on to other UK universities.

The university says it is proposing to build the state-of-the-art facility on the new Heslington East campus; accommodating teaching and study space and a refectory. Additional residential accommodation would also be required in time.

A source told The Press that many academics feared the venture was being pushed through too quickly and the university was being placed at risk of losing a considerable sum of money, at least in the short term.

The source claimed other universities which had joined such a partnership had lost money, while others had decided not to get involved in such a scheme.

But a university spokesman said the college would increase the throughput of well-qualified overseas students, generating funds for reinvestment in staff and facilities and raising the university’s profile overseas.

The spokesman said the university would retain full academic control, for example setting the standard required of students entering into the foundation programmes.

The joint venture would employ its own staff who would be given associate staff member status by the university, and any university staff transferred into the venture would have their existing terms and conditions guaranteed.

“As international students move into undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, we would use the additional fee income generated to enhance student-staff ratios and to increase support for students through central services.”

He said the proposal was under consideration by both senate and council. “We may or may not decide to go ahead,” he said. “If approved, we will finalise a contract and recruit students for academic year 2015-16. The numbers will then build up gradually over five years.”

He said that if the joint venture failed, the university would have an option to acquire the building on Heslington East and to reallocate it for other purposes.