News of the £6.5 million university campus at the College of West Anglia has been welcomed by headteachers and businesses.
The higher education centre for science, technology and management will not only raise education levels but also boost the town centre’s economy.
Up to 500 more students will be accommodated on the Tennyson Avenue campus after construction work on University Centre West Anglia starts next year.
The new centre, which already has planning permission, is receiving a share of the £6 billion Government’s Growth Deal, which has been secured by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.
The scheme is hoped to address a skills shortage in West Norfolk and Fenland, where 27 per cent of the population has degree level qualifications compared with 55 per cent in Cambridge.
Principal David Pomfret said: “This new flagship building for the University Centre West Anglia will create a high quality teaching and learning facility not currently available within a 40-mile radius of Lynn and will offer new opportunities for progression in learning and skills directly related to the requirements of the local and regional economy. This is crucial both for the education and training needs of local people and for the success of local businesses and employers.”
“The proportion of the local population with higher level qualifications is significantly lower than the national average. This affects the local economy as employers struggle to recruit staff with the skills required to maintain and grow their businesses.
“The new higher skills centre will directly address this issue, and we will be working with employers to ensure the curriculum meets the economic needs of the area.”
The new campus is a partnership between the college and Anglia Ruskin University. The college is also working with Aventa Capital Partners on a £170 million scheme to create the Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering in Downham.
West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney is also thrilled.
He said: “This is fantastic news and a great opportunity for West Norfolk people. This is a real vote of confidence in the area.”
Jon Goodchild, headteacher of Hunstanton’s Smithdon High School, is hoping the university will resolve problems facing schools in the area.
He said: “I sincerely hope and believe that this is a real opportunity to address the issue of teacher recruitment in West Norfolk. The biggest shortage is in maths, physics and chemistry teachers. This is fantastic news.
“It will also raise young people’s aspirations and the profile of education.”
Traders in the town centre are also hoping that the influx of a further 500 students will also be a boost to the economy.
Manager of the Vancouver Quarter Abbie Panks said: “This is great news for the town centre and the area. Hopefully it will bring more people into the town.”
West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham has also welcomed the news of the university but is disappointed that the area has missed out on funding for a major road project. The Growth Deal has announced schemes to improve roads in Peterborough and Bury St Edmunds.
He said: “There is a need for upskilling and increasing the levels of skills around science, IT and bio technology. But the only thing I would say is lacking is a scheme to relieve congestion around the towns and to help improve the road infrastructure.
“We do run the risk of missing out as we fall between two local enterprise partnerships.”
Mr Bellingham will be raising the issue with ministers.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “The commitment of £6.5 million to develop a new Higher Skills Centre at the College of West Anglia is fantastic news. Serving West Norfolk and Fenland the college will promote the attainment of higher skills and qualifications in the area equal to university standard education.”
n The new Growth Deal also brings more than £6 million of extra funding to improve Broadband coverage in rural Norfolk.