Peterborough will be the next British city to set up its own higher education institution.
Plans for University College, Peterborough which will be run by an as-yet unnamed Midlands university will be unveiled on May 17. A start-up date has yet to be announced, but an estimate that its direct and indirect contribution to the local economy, put at Pounds 100 million per year, will generate around 2,000 extra jobs by the end of the century, points to a start in the next two years.
The initiative came from the city and followed research which uncovered unsatisfied demand for higher education in Peterborough and the surrounding area. Geoff Forbat, higher education manager for Greater Peterborough Training and Enterprise Council said: "Peterborough is the largest city without a university, and has the added difficulty that there is no university within daily travelling distance. We are in the middle of a large space, with seven universities about 50 miles away but nothing closer."
A local-needs survey found a potential market of around 12,000 students, of whom 52 per cent would be mature. "But there is also a clear trend for 18- year-olds to live at home while they study," said Mr Forbat.
Funding plans are still to be disclosed but Mr Forbat was confident that funding would be available.
The decision to go for a university college affiliated to an existing university rather than an entirely new institution was dictated by the desire to move as rapidly as possible. The identity of the partner will be disclosed on May 17 - but it is known not to be De Montfort, the most expansionist of the Midlands universities.
Course provision will reflect the survey finding that local businesses saw management development and training, engineering, and business and finance as the main areas of unfulfilled need. "But they will need to offer a full range of options for modular degrees - for example people doing business courses may also want the chance to do foreign language modules," said Forbat.
They also expect to operate the full range of delivery modes, including distance and telematic learning. Potential accommodation for the university has been identified in the city centre. With most students expected to come from the locality, student quarters are not expected to be a problem in the short-term at least.