A dream dating back nearly a decade has become reality in Lynn today as the area’s new University Centre was formally opened.
Students began working in the new £6.5 million complex on the College of West Anglia campus earlier this month, at the start of the new academic year.
And officials say the facility will help to transform the educational and economic fortunes of the area.
College principal David Pomfret said he had been pursuing the idea ever since he took up the role in 2007.
He described the building, which contains 14 digital classroomsm a 120 seat lecture theatre, IT and social facilities, as the “jewel in the crown” of the campus, which has had more than £50 million spent on new facilities over the last five years.
He paid tribute to organisations including Anglia Ruskin University, the college’s higher education provider, the West Norfolk Partnership and the New Anglia local enterprise partnership (LEP) for their backing over the years.
He added: “It’s fantastic that, together, we’ve made that vision become a reality.
It is more than two years since funding for the centre was confirmed and nearly a year since building work began.
LEP chairman Mark Pendlington said the project was part of a bigger picture of growth and aspiration.
He said: “As you look around the economy of King’s Lynn, at the new Enterprise Zone, the new Innovation Centre, the success of this college and this new University Centre, there is something very special and transformational happening.”
And former West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney said it was “the most fantastic feeling” to see the facility open.
He said: “It will bring so much to all of us in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.”
Although the college has offered higher education programmes for many years through its links with Anglia Ruskin, the new centre is intended to drive a major expansion of degree provision.
Mr Pomfret said: “It’s a state-of-the-art building. We’re immensely proud of it and our provision is going to be focused on meeting and developing a range of programmes specifically aimed at the local businesses in the area.
“We want to give people the opportunity to stay close for their studies, but also go far in terms of their prospects.”
As well as developing new courses, the college aims to attract an extra 300 students into higher education over the next three years.