WORK is set to start on the next phase of the multi-million-pound redevelopment of Oxford’s Ruskin College.

A £5m contract for the project was signed yesterday.

It will include a new academic building to house the college’s Callaghan Library.

It was named after former Prime Minister James Callaghan, who made a speech at Ruskin College in 1976.

Principal Professor Audrey Mullender signed the contract yesterday to give builders Leadbitter the go-ahead to start work on the second phase of the redevelopment of the campus at Dunstan Road, in Old Headington.

Ruskin is a residential college specialising in providing education for adults with few or no qualifications, giving them a second chance to achieve academic success.

The project, worth £17m overall, also includes the refurbishment of a Grade II listed building and improvements to a walled garden.

Prof Mullender said: “The project is the culmination of many years of planning by the college and we’re looking forward to completion of the building next year.

“Engaging adults in education is particularly vital at a time of economic uncertainty and this project will give us state-of-the-art facilities for our extremely important work with ‘return to learn’ students.”

The college is involved with educating about 4,000 people throughout the course of an academic year, of whom about 400 are on longer courses, such as degrees.

Cliff Thomas, regional director of Abingdon-based Leadbitter Construction - which sponsors the Oxford Mail’s School Focus and School SOS competition – said: “Leadbitter is delighted to have been awarded this contract, which will result in a first class academic building.”