A group of ex-Manchester United footballers led by Gary Neville are creating a new “university academy” alternative provider in the Trafford area of Manchester.
The Class of ’92 are creating the University Academy ’92 in partnership with Lancaster University, Trafford Council and corporate sponsor Microsoft.
The institution will have a campus in the Manchester borough of Trafford, which is also home to Manchester United’s stadium, and will offer courses in business, media and sport.
The Class of '92 hope that the institution will broaden the appeal of higher education by integrating skills and resilience training, work placements and personal development into the academic content.
The Class of ’92 are a group of football players who won the 1992 FA Youth Cup for Manchester United and went on to become international stars. Members of this elite group, brought into the Manchester United first team by manager Sir Alex Ferguson, also include Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt.
The Class of ’92 say that the “UA92” will be a “catalyst for economic, community and physical regeneration” in the area and will offer a “game-changing educational experience” that offers a “bold and innovative alternative to a traditional university degree”.
Founding partner Lancaster University will initially validate the institution’s degrees, but in time UA92 is aiming to secure its own degree-awarding powers. Lancaster will also contribute to its planned start-up budget of £15 million.
Lancaster vice-chancellor Mark Smith said that the high-profile nature of the founders could help to encourage students who may not have previously applied for higher education to take part.
“We know things like Brexit and subsequent political events have meant that there are certain sectors of society that don’t really engage with society – that is a big challenge for universities and people who would more naturally speak to them could offer a way in,” he told Times Higher Education.
“We want to broaden the appeal of higher education to students who may not traditionally take part,” he said.
“One of the interests from a Lancaster point of view to offering a different model with a partner [is that] we can extend the reach of Lancaster University to a demographic we wouldn’t usually get into,” he added.
Professor Smith said that the full picture of how the new institution will approach university degrees is not yet fully formed. But the idea is to offer a more integrated approach that focuses on skills, resilience, work placements and personal development as well as the academic components.
He added that there would be no dilution of the academic content, and that corporate sponsors such as Microsoft will help to co-design course content and offer sponsored placements.
The UA92 board will include representatives from the Class of ’92, Lancaster University, Microsoft and any future sponsors.
Professor Smith said that the institution could be an example of the type of alternative providers that the UK government are trying to cultivate with current higher education policy.