Government paves way for Nuca to become Norwich’s second university

Norfolk is set to get a second university after the government paved the way for Norwich's historic art college to take on the prestigious title.

Norwich University College of the Arts (Nuca) has previously been unable to call itself a university because it did not have the 4,000 students needed to qualify.

But yesterday universities minister David Willetts announced institutions with at least 1,000 higher education students could now claim the title.

Supporters of Nuca last night welcomed the decision which they said would bring much-deserved prestige to the 170-year-old specialist institution but also to Norfolk as a two-university county.

The ruling was part of the government's response to its consultation on the Higher Education White Paper. In its report, it said: 'We will further stimulate competition in the sector by reducing the 'numbers' criterion for university title from 4,000 higher education students to 1,000. This will widen access to university title for smaller, high-quality providers.'

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Nuca plans to make its formal application to the Privy Council soon and hopes to be able to begin using the new title by the end of the year.

Principal John Last said: 'I welcome this recognition of Nuca's 170 years of specialist education in the heart of one of the most cultural cities in the UK. It acknowledges the sustained excellence of staff and students' work which has put Nuca at the forefront of teaching and research in arts, design and media in Europe.'

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The university college has been facing increasing demand on places at its Norwich city centre campus but, because of government-imposed restrictions on growth, it had not been able to admit more students.

The new university title will not change that situation and will not impact on the running of the site.

But it is hoped it will clear up confusion over what a 'university college' really is and ensure Nuca gets the recognition it deserves as a high-quality specialist education provider.

Chris Starkie, programme director for the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: 'Nuca already has an outstanding reputation in its field. It's a really important asset for us in the region and getting university status will only help enhance its reputation and its attraction as a destination for students.'

Having Nuca and the University of East Anglia (UEA) will further enhance Norfolk's reputation as a county of innovators across a range of disciplines.

Mr Starkie added: 'Having two universities will enhance the reputation of the city and the county and help improve the skills base of the area.'

Prof Last said it was also likely to bring economic benefits.

'A University of the Arts will bring not just enormous creative energy to the county but also contribute significant economic benefit to our region. Recent reports suggest UK graduates contribute to the economy almost 10 times what it costs the state to educate them to degree level.

'Nuca is already a major supplier of high-quality creative graduates and with full university title will continue to lead in areas of arts, design and media education regionally, nationally and internationally.'

Graham Creelman, chairman of the governing board at Nuca, added: 'Our students have gone on to be leaders in their field and have benefited from the focus and concentration on excellence that a specialist institution can achieve. With our new title, we are determined to be not just UK leaders, but world leaders in art, design and media education.'

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