Disappointment as Norfolk university technical college funding bid is pushed back

Education leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to making Norfolk a world-class centre for energy and engineering despite the failure of an initial government funding bid.

City College Norwich and the University of East Anglia had hoped to open one of the UK's first University Technical Colleges (UTC) in the county in September 2012.

The plan, which aims to arm young people with the skills necessary to progress and excel in the energy, engineering and manufacturing sectors, had gained backing from a host of local and national industrial giants.

But today (Monday) hopes of opening the UTC, which would be for 14 to 19-year-olds, in time for the next academic year were dashed when the department for education revealed the Norfolk bid had not been successful in the first round of funding.

Instead, the application will be pushed back and considered in the next bidding round for colleges opening in September 2013.

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Tonight Dick Palmer, principal of City College Norwich, said he believed the college had submitted a strong bid for a Norfolk UTC and was 'obviously very disappointed' to have been looked over for this funding round.

But he said its 'commitment to making Norfolk a world-class centre for energy, engineering and advanced manufacturing skills' was 'undiminished'.

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'The continued development of the energy, advanced manufacturing and engineering sectors in Norfolk represents a huge opportunity for the local and regional economy,' he said. 'Ensuring we have the skills and training infrastructure in place to support the growth of these sectors, so that skilled jobs can go to local people, remains a top priority for the college and our partners.'

The college will now consult with the UEA and others to decide what its next steps should be although Mr Palmer said that would 'not mean that we will be standing still for a year'.

He said City College Norwich was already working closely with key employers in the energy, engineering and manufacturing sectors to ensure the right training and opportunities to progress were in place for the county's youngsters.

Companies backing the Norfolk UTC plan include Adnams, Lotus Cars, May Gurney, Scottish Renewables and Schneider Electric UK. It also has the support of Norfolk County Council.

Just two UTCs have been opened so far in the UK, the JCB Academy in Staffordshire and the Black Country UTC in Walsall. Three more had also previously been given the go-ahead by the government.

Today, education secretary Michael Gove approved a further 13 UTCs to open in 2012 and 2013 including one at Silverstone in Northamptonshire which will train students in high performance engineering and motor sport, event management and hospitality.

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