City College Norwich and UEA lead crunch meeting over Norfolk University Technical College bid

A team behind Norfolk's university technical college bid had a crunch meeting with government officials yesterday having passed a major hurdle on its way to being approved.

It is the second attempt by the group, led by City College Norwich and the University of East Anglia, to get the go ahead for the new institution which would specialise in training youngsters for the energy, engineering and manufacturing industries.

After failing to reach the shortlist last year, the employer-backed plan has been re-submitted and has made it through to the top 20 proposals.

Yesterday, City College principal Dick Palmer, along with Ben Milner, associate dean for learning and teaching at UEA's faculty of science, and representatives from The Mason Trust, Lotus, and Great Yarmouth-based Gardline, met the department for education (DfE) for the interview.

It was the team's chance to convince officials that their proposals for a university college for 14 to 19-year-olds, based in Norwich, deserved to be one of the between seven and nine bids expected to be approved in May.

Mr Palmer, whose college will be a lead sponsor along with UEA, said the Norfolk UTC had even more industry support this time around.

He said: 'We know there are huge employment opportunities out there in the fields of advanced engineer, high-value engineering and energy skills. Employers are finding it very difficult to fill those recruitment opportunities with local people.

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'We need this in Norfolk. It's almost a case of 'why wouldn't you give it to us?', there is so obvious a need.'

But after experiencing disappointment last October, the Norfolk UTC team are cautious about their hopes of success.

Mr Palmer pointed out that more of the shortlisted bids were destined for failure than success but felt the group had 'given a good account of itself' during the DfE interview.

'We certainly got that passion across,' he said. 'We certainly got the fact that we are a true partnership; unusually for some of those applications, we have been a partnership for two years now. Keeping that together even though we didn't get through the first round shows to the government we are committed as a genuine partnership.'

UTCs are a government concept aiming to provide courses for young people focused on technical skills and offering a clear route into higher education, training or work.

If approved, the Norfolk UTC would be ready to open in September 2013.