BUILDING work on a £120 million university expansion which will increase student numbers by a third could begin in less than a year.

The University of Sussex has unveiled new designs for a student village on its Falmer campus which will triple the amount of student housing on its East Slope site.

The East Slope accommodation will be built and paid for by Balfour Beatty, who will then operate the building and receive student rents for the next 50 years.

A planning application is set to be submitted before Easter and could be before the city council’s planning committee within three months.

If granted permission, work could begin in January with the first phase ready for the start of the 2018/19 academic year with all work completed by 2020.

The new student village will see 2,100 student bedrooms in a mix of town houses and flats replace 590 outdated units built in the 1970s.

The plans by architects TP Bennett are the first stage of a £500 million building programme which the university estimates will create 2,400 permanent jobs.

Registrar and secretary John Duffy said the expansion was needed to maintain the university's international reputation and that increasing campus accommodation would relieve pressure on housing in the city.

Further development of the site will see planning applications for a major car park on the west side of the campus and a new science building submitted in the upcoming months.

Design work on the redevelopment of the West Slope, which will see 1,000 old rooms replaced with accommodation for up to 2,500 students, will begin next year and could be completed within the next five years.

The plans are all part of the university’s campus masterplan which was granted outline consent last year on appeal after Brighton and Hove City Council initially rejected the proposal.

Mr Duffy said the university had worked closely with architects to ensure that the “unique selling point” qualities of the original Sir Basil Spence vision for the university’s campus and its green spaces would be complemented and retained with the new development.

He said: “We want to maintain the University of Sussex as a leading international university.

“To do that we need to have 18,000 plus students, we need to have a modern campus and we need to have great academic facilities and that is what we intend to do.

“I would say we are a really fundamental part of a buzzing city in Brighton and Hove and most people understand that.

“We are trying to build as many beds on campus as possible within the space available to us.”