First step to realising university vision

Published: 21 May 2007 at 15:23

The signing of a joint venture agreement between Anglia Ruskin University and The College of West Anglia has taken place this week (21 May). It marks the beginning of a new stage of collaboration to expand higher education provision in west Norfolk and Fenland.

The historic agreement heralds the start of the building of a new university infrastructure for King’s Lynn and the surrounding area. The College of West Anglia is one of the largest general further education colleges in the Eastern Region and, with campuses in King’s Lynn, Wisbech and Milton, serves a catchment area covering the counties of Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and parts of Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

West Norfolk and Fenland are areas with lower than average numbers of people entering Higher Education and the new Joint Venture will aim to increase the proportion of local people who can enter higher education by providing locally organised and accessible courses. By raising the proportion of the workforce with higher level qualifications it is expected that the joint venture will make a positive contribution to strengthening the skills base of the local economy. The development is seen as a positive step forward by local authorities.

The leaders of the two institutions, The College of West Anglia’s Principal Peter Stewart, and the Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, Michael Thorne, joined the Mayor of King’s Lynn and senior council leaders at the signing to discuss their vision for the future.

Commenting on the move towards establishing a university centre, Peter Stewart said:

“This joint venture signing is an indication of the commitment of The College of West Anglia and Anglia Ruskin University to the people of West Norfolk and Fenland, to build on the already successful collaboration that is in place and see the emergence of a tangible university structure.”

As part of ambitious plans for growth, The College of West Anglia is building new campuses in March (planned completion June 2009) and King’s Lynn (planned for completion June 2010) at an estimated cost of £100m.

Anglia Ruskin University's Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Thorne said:

“This is yet another important milestone in the mapping out of a number of new universities for the East of England.  We want to develop a network of local campuses that serve the towns and surrounding areas so that people can study either at their local centres or come in to study at our main campus sites.  It is a system that works exceptionally well in the US and we are keen to replicate it here to meet the needs of local people and fuel the relevant regional economies.”

Anglia Ruskin University is looking to increase student numbers at The College of West Anglia from the current level of 440 students to over 650 students on part-time and full-time programmes. The first intake of students to gain admission to degree level courses under the new joint venture agreement will start their studies in October 2007.

Anglia Ruskin University has been at the forefront of providing higher education opportunities for those areas where University participation rates and aspiration has been low.  In 2005/06 there were over 4000 students studying for Anglia Ruskin University awards in Centres across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.  The new developments in Peterborough and King’s Lynn will ensure that all those with the ability to succeed in higher education have the opportunity to do so. 

A recent report ‘Benchmarking the performance of English universities’ (by Mike Simpson and Dr Jeff Pursglove) has concluded that newer universities, like Anglia Ruskin University, are more academically effective and efficient than traditional universities when it comes to teaching and widening participation.