Peterboro' to get own university

June 13, 1997

Low participation meets blue-chip research: Phil Baty reports on the East in the latest of our regional focuses

Peterborough should have its own university by next year, the local Training and Enterprise Council said this week.

One year after the idea was first voiced by Peterborough TEC, feasibility studies are under way and fund-raising consultants have been appointed. Loughborough University is ready to provide degree validation services and is now waiting for the Higher Education Funding Council to invite a bid for student numbers for 1998 entry.

The initiative is greatly needed, points out John Britten, director of education services at Peterborough TEC. "We desperately need proper higher education provision in the area. There is no higher education establishment within a one-hour drive of Peterborough in any direction. The population in the East is widely dispersed and travel is difficult and this is reflected in the picture of the local economy."

"National Learning Targets dictate that 30 per cent of the work force should have vocational, professional, management or academic qualifications at level four or above - that's above A-level standard. We've just got 20 per cent. There are real skills shortages. It is clear something had to be done."

There is an FE college in Peterborough serving about 1,000 students with degrees and HNDs validated from Sheffield and De Montfort. But TEC figures show there are potentially 350,000 learners in the area. Two-fifths of the region's cohort of eligible 18-year-olds leave the area to study, said Mr Britten, and "very few come back". The population is rising, while job vacancies are not.

Like the other fledgling higher education providers in the East, Peterborough will be highly teaching/vocation-based. Loughborough envisages a distance-learning network, where "people have instant access from terminals at work" and the TEC is planning a "corporate faculty structure", where disciplines are not just focused on local business needs but based at local firms.

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