East Anglia is waking up and shaking up its provision for local learners
Peterborough Regional College has taken the first step towards achieving university status by securing funding to expand its higher education courses.
The East of England Development Agency has pledged £2.3 million towards the "embryonic university", which would see a new building constructed on or next to the college's campus. It is expected to be ready for the 2007-08 academic year and will accommodate a further 2,000 students.
Alison Davies, senior director of higher education, said the college had been working with Anglia Polytechnic University on a bid for funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The council had provided £150,000 for preliminary work, which she said signalled that the application was likely to be approved when it was submitted later this year.
The Learning and Skills Council said it would also contribute funds. Total funding for the project is expected to reach about £10 million.
Don Lawson, Peterborough's principal, said the college had for some time offered a number of degree courses to complement its further education portfolio.
It is the only institution offering higher education in the rapidly growing city of 157,000 people since Loughborough University withdrew from Peterborough 18 months ago after five years, during which time only about 100 students had been recruited.
The university pulled out after its senate decided to concentrate on developing a site next to its main campus rather than continue with satellite operations. "It became clear last year that any significant investment would be at Loughborough University itself," said a spokesman at the time.
Students who started courses in September last year will have their degrees accredited by APU rather than Loughborough.
Mr Lawson said it was a matter of some concern locally that Peterborough lacked a university. The new building would be the first step towards achieving university status, which he expected would take about ten years.
"We are committed as a college to working with our partners on a new higher education centre and are quite sure it will improve access to higher education for people from all denominations in a way that they have not had before," he said, referring to Peterborough's large Pakistani population.
Thirty-five of Peterborough's staff are dedicated to higher education provision and some 1,000 students will be enrolled on 12 degree courses, including business administration, law and archaeology in September. Halls of residence may also be built in the future, although Mr Lawson said they were not a priority.
Under rules to be introduced in September, to achieve university status the college must have 3,000 students studying two-year foundation degrees.
A positive Ofsted report on the college, due to be published this month, is expected to boost its chances of winning Hefce funding.