Funding boost for city university

Cllr John Holdich
Cllr John Holdich
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This is the week that devolution started to produce real, tangible benefits for the city and our residents, writes Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich.

An important reason for backing a devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough was to establish an independent university in the city.

Well, one of the first major funding announcements from the Combined Authority is set to be £6.5million to accelerate the establishment of the University of Peterborough.

I believe a university is vital for the prosperity of the city for a number of reasons including creating opportunities for our young people and developing a better skilled workforce for employers.

It will also create jobs and provide the most important boost to the local economy for a generation.

I must stress that to develop a renowned university that attracts students from across the UK to the city, and eventually from around the world, will take time.

What the overall project aims to do is transform the current University Centre Peterborough (UCP), which works under the umbrella of Anglia Ruskin University, into an independent fully-fledged University of Peterborough.

The key to having an independent university is attracting students and this is what this funding principally is for. Currently we have around 800 students studying for degrees in the city at UCP.

This needs to increase before we move to building a brand new university campus.

The funding from the Combined Authority, to be used over the next three years, looks to increase university student numbers in the city to 3,000 by 2022 through expanding the curriculum on offer, recruiting staff and boosting Peterborough’s Higher Education profile.

The target is to have 12,500 students studying degrees in the city by 2035. Similar sized universities have produced huge benefits to the local economy, including £400million being generated locally and thousands of jobs created both directly through the university and to provide services to the student population.

Peterborough is the largest conurbation in the UK without its own university and sits within a geographical higher education cold spot. The Combined Authority is clear that this needs to change and that by establishing an independent university in Peterborough it will provide an opportunity for our residents to study nearby whilst also attracting talented students from across the UK.

Continuing on the theme of young people, what wonderful news that not one but three city council staff have been recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours. Pat Carrington MBE, Tasha Dalton BEM, both from City College, and Janet Dullaghan MBE have all dedicated not only their working lives, but also much of their own time, to supporting and caring for young people.

In the six years Pat has been principal she’s cultivated a strong entrepreneurial spirit at the college and is a great advocate for adult education.

Tasha’s passion is helping to give disabled people a voice and focusing on what they can do by turning their self-doubt into self-belief. She’s devised a fantastic training programme which has now been accredited as a national qualification.

Janet works across the council and NHS shaping services for young people that puts their needs right at the heart. I’m really proud of all three of them; Peterborough’s very lucky to have such dedicated public servants.

As the weekend approaches I hope the good weather holds as Cathedral Square is to be the setting for two great events. On Saturday we’ll be saluting our forces as part of national Armed Forces Day. There will be a parade, music by military and pipe bands, a display of military vehicles, stalls, a tea dance at St John’s Church and - weather permitting - a flypast. Sunday will see the Polish community join the growing list of communities holding events to celebrate their heritage and traditions. I hope people will take the chance to experience a little bit of Polish culture.

In addition, there will be a celebration of Eid in Central Park on Sunday or Monday which will include a family picnic, fun activities, stalls and prayer. The date is not set yet as it depends on the sighting of the new moon. You can find out more about the event on Salaam Radio’s Facebook page. It’s what I love about Peterborough, our diversity makes it such a great place to live. I should also mention the annual memorial service at Peterborough Crematorium on Sunday to allow residents the chance to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed away. The service starts at 3pm.