New £30 million university for Peterborough is officially launched by Universities Minister
New £30 million university for Peterborough is officially launched by Universities Minister

Published with permission of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority

Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan has today (14 July) announced Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) as the official higher education partner for a new employment-focused university in Peterborough, an initiative by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) in collaboration with Peterborough City Council (PCC).

ARU will deliver the curriculum for the new university, which will be known as ARU Peterborough, until 2028, and will soon begin recruiting its first cohort of students. The new £30 million university is set to open its doors to 2,000 students in 2022, with an ambition to offer courses for up to 12,500 by 2030. The curriculum will be designed to meet local economic needs; providing both opportunities for local residents to receive a top-class vocational education and a well skilled local workforce for businesses to employ.

ARU Peterborough will deliver a practical solution to the acute shortage of degree-level employees in the workforce, with Peterborough ranked in the bottom 10% in the UK for skills levels. By widening participation and attracting a diverse student population from non-traditional backgrounds, it will both redress the skills gap and improve social mobility in an area that has been a long-term higher education ‘cold spot’.

Courses will be delivered through a mixture of on-campus lessons, in-work training, and apprenticeships, with distance learning and outreach programmes to improve accessibility and widen participation.

James Palmer, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, has been working closely with partners and key stakeholders for the past three years in planning the new university, an ambition of the city for over 20 years. The ARU Peterborough campus will have state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly facilities, with specialist teaching spaces including skills labs.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, it is now important more than ever that our higher education delivers the skills our country and economy needs to thrive.

“Central to that, is making sure universities serve their local and regional communities, and I am particularly pleased with the university’s focus on higher technical education and apprenticeships. I look forward to seeing how ARU Peterborough helps to meet the needs of its city.”

Mayor James Palmer said: “After decades of false starts, I am beyond pleased to be officially launching a new employment focused university for Peterborough, which will drastically improve the life chances of people in Peterborough and the surrounding area. 

“The university will breathe new life into the city and region, helping to empower people with the skills and training they need to find jobs and careers that will be fulfilling and rewarding and in turn creating a new generation of highly skilled workers to meet the needs of emerging markets.”   

Councillor John Holdich, Leader of Peterborough City Council and Deputy Mayor, said: “One of my greatest ambitions as leader of the council is to see a dedicated university for Peterborough so I am delighted that we are partnering with a higher education provider of the calibre of Anglia Ruskin University which has a fantastic track record.

“Establishing a university is the single biggest thing we can do to stop our talented young people from leaving to build their lives elsewhere and ensures that our businesses have a good crop of people with the skills and talent they need to apply for jobs. It will lead to higher skilled and better paid jobs and create significant economic benefits for the whole city.

“I am confident that together with ARU we will deliver the university that Peterborough needs and that the people of the city deserve.”

Professor Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor of ARU, said: “We are delighted to be appointed as the University partner in this exciting initiative, which will be transformative for the city of Peterborough and the region.

“Only last month we were named as one of the top 10 mainstream universities in the country for graduate employment, thanks to the talent and hard work of our students and staff.

“By working closely with employers in and around Peterborough to design and deliver courses that match their needs, ARU Peterborough will generate economic growth and provide life-changing opportunities for many local people who may not have previously considered going to university.”

A recent Centre for Cities study declared Peterborough as the fifth most ‘at risk’ city in the UK from the economic impacts of COVID-19.  This stems from the city’s low-tech industrial base, which is characterised by increasing levels of administration and logistics employment, a waning high-value manufacturing sector and a falling proportion of knowledge-intense jobs.

While Peterborough has seen a rapid increase in both population and growth, with generally high employment levels across the region, skills growth has not kept up. Local businesses are struggling to recruit the staff they need and companies offering high value jobs have been discouraged from moving in, leading to a decline in the overall prosperity of the city and surrounding areas. 

Peterborough has a workforce of 103,000 and, in comparison to the average city in the UK, it is estimated it needs to mobilise at least 17,000 more workers with degrees to become competitive.

ARU, which has main campuses in Chelmsford and Cambridge, is one of the country’s leading mainstream universities for graduate employment. The 2020 Graduate Outcomes survey, produced by HESA, ranked ARU fifth in the country for the proportion of UK undergraduates in employment or further study 15 months after graduating.

ARU Peterborough will offer an employment led delivery model to increase skills levels in Peterborough, helping the area build its economic prosperity, benefitting both individuals by increasing employment prospects and employers by enabling the expansion of business.

Responding to emerging areas of employment, the first four faculties of ARU Peterborough will be:

  • The Faculty of Business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • The Faculty of Creative and Digital Arts and Sciences
  • The Faculty of Agriculture, Environment and Sustainability
  • The Faulty of Health and Education