The UK is to gain a new higher education institution as University Campus Suffolk (UCS) announces it is to officially become independent in the next academic year.
UCS, which has been a collaboration between the universities of Essex and East Anglia since 2007, will become the University of Suffolk from 1 August.
Having successfully met the criteria for ‘University Title’, UCS - which will be charging 2016/17 students £9,000 a year in tuition fees - will now be eligible to award its own degrees, whereas before, Essex and East Anglia sponsored its formation and validated the qualifications it handed out.
Until the announcement on Tuesday, Suffolk was one of just four counties in England that did not have its own independent university.
For the first time, the university will receive direct government funding, enabling it to expand its teaching and give more young people in the region the “life-changing opportunity” of a university education.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson described how those in Suffolk have had to turn to other parts of the UK for higher education “for too long.” He said: “I’m enormously pleased UCS has demonstrated its ability to meet the needs of students and can now be called a university in its own right.”
Richard Lister, provost and chief executive of UCS, said the new university will enable staff to expand its work and offer “the transformational experience” of higher education to even more people.
On the effect the new university will have, he continued: “It is expected we will see an increase in our student numbers and it will make it easier for international students to join us. Over time, we expect to grow by 50 per cent and it is anticipated that by 2020, the University of Suffolk could boost Suffolk’s economy by £25 to £30 million per year.”
Speaking to BBC News, he acknowledged the new university will be “a newborn babe in a hostile environment,” adding: “Universities are effectively private-sector institutions in the way they operate now, and the only money we get is by persuading students of the quality of what we do.”
In its White Paper, published Monday, the Government announced plans around institutions seeking University Title and said it would be implementing a series of measures in order to widen access to higher education, including stopping the Privy Council from giving the title.
Instead, a new Office for Students (OFS) will be responsible for doing so.
The Paper described the current process for obtaining either degree-awarding powers or university title as “long, convoluted, and unnecessarily burdensome” for high-quality providers, adding: “This is an important part of moving to a single regulator with a simpler system which reduces the burden on all providers.”
Mr Johnson said the new OFS would have a remit to “champion value for money” and the student interest in its decision-making. He said: “By opening up the sector to new universities and colleges, students will have more choice than ever when they come to apply to university.”
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