NORTHAMPTON UNIVERSITY College used to be Nene College of Higher Education. It was also once the University of Northampton, as any medieval historian could tell you. A "town vs gown" row at Cambridge in about 1260 drove scholars to Northampton. Three years later, the Oxford schools were closed and students flocked to the town. But this new seat of learning was short lived. King Henry III signed a decree that dissolved the "heretical" university.

Instead, it had to wait seven centuries, until February of this year, for the Privy Council to grant Nene, which it had become in 1975, the much desired university college title, after it passed through a large variety of educational stages, including colleges of art, technology and education. As Nene, its degrees were validated by Leicester University. Then, in 1993, just as Luton College of Higher Education was granted uni status, Nene was allowed to award its own degrees.

It has one of the most beautiful campuses in the Midlands, the delight of its 11,000 students, 1,200 of them reading for postgraduate qualifications. Only 10 years ago students barely exceeded 500, so this is a remarkable achievement.

There are more than 100 undergrad and postgrad degrees and diplomas, but Northampton is probably best known for its leather technology course, claimed to be the only one of its kind in the English-speaking world (students from some 70 countries flock to its British School of Leather Technology). Little wonder that Northampton has remained the centre of Britain's shoe- making industry.

Nene wanted full university status and some 600 local businesses supported its campaign. It contributes more than pounds 60m a year to the town's economy. But, above all, its courses have scored from competent to excellent in Quality Assurance Agency assessments, and top marks were gained by its student support and welfare.

Martin Gaskell, Northampton's Rector, says the new title "rightly places us in the university sector. After 700 years, a university is returning to Northampton."