A new multi-million pound university campus in the heart of Lynn will help to encourage more of the town’s youngsters to go into higher education, officials have claimed.
The comment came after figures were published showing North Lynn has among the lowest numbers of young people going to university in the country.
According to the data from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, just 6.9 per cent of teenagers in North Lynn go to university. Only one area in the county has a lower figure.
Other wards, including South and West Lynn, Fairstead, St Margarets and St Nicholas and Docking are also among areas with fewer than one in five people going to university.
But the College of West Anglia says more students than ever are due to enrol on its degree programmes later this month.
And building work is also due to begin shortly on a new £6.5 million university centre at the Lynn campus, which is due to open next autumn.
Principal David Pomfret said: “Our region has some of the lowest levels of participation in higher level education.
“This facility will support our aim to inspire more of our young people and adults to take higher level qualifications, enhancing their career and earnings prospects and meeting the skills needs of local businesses.
“I am really pleased to see year-on-year increases in the numbers of students progressing to our higher level programmes and we are expecting a record number of students to start our degree programmes this September.”
A number of new degree courses, including biosciences, creative digital media and criminology and sociology, are also due to start next year, to coincide with the opening of the new buildings.
And Mr Pomfret added: “We will be working closely with employers to offer higher level apprenticeships and bespoke higher level programmes.”
The college already works with the Anglia Ruskin University, which aims to use the participation figures to target its outreach programme on areas like North Lynn, to provide degree courses.
Marc Rothera, the university’s outreach and recruitment manager, said: “It is vital that young people realise that university is for everyone. It shouldn’t be a postcode lottery.
“There are deep-seated socio-economic reasons why some areas have lower participation than others and we’re committed to challenging the fact too many young people in rural or low income areas of our region do not even consider higher education as an option.”
But the councillor in charge of Norfolk’s education services said all options should be left open to young people so they can fulfil their ambitions.
County council officials say they are working with other bodies to provide further education and training options to enhance future job prospects.
And the authority has launched a mobile app designed to match young people’s interests and skills to key growth sectors and offer information about training chances in them.
James Joyce, chairman of its children’s services committee, said: “We want to ensure that Norfolk’s children and young people have the excellent education that helps them to develop the skills that they need to access work and contribute to Norfolk’s economy.
“This includes those living in the most disadvantaged areas, who are beginning to narrow the attainment gap with their peers. At the same time we want to attract business and investment to ensure Norfolk’s young people can access real jobs in their communities.
“If university is the right option for a young person, we would expect schools, academies and colleges to be supporting their students to access the right course to lead them into their chosen career.
“Likewise, if young people want to pursue other training and study opportunities, such as apprenticeships, we want to ensure that those options are available to them.”
The council says it also provides impartial advice to young people about their options online and via material distributed to schools and colleges.