Norwich University College of the Arts could soon be university

Norfolk could soon be home to two universities after the government announced plans to allow smaller institutions to adopt the prestigious title.

Norwich University College of the Arts (NUCA) has been unable to take university status because of its size, but now the government has outlined plans to change the boundaries and allow those with fewer than 4,000 but more than 1,000 students to take the name.

The university college is one of 10 specialist higher education institutions in the country with less than 4,000 students to offer higher education degrees to at least at least 75pc of its number.

All operate in the same way as universities, with the same scrutiny, but when NUCA was allowed to offer its own degrees up to Masters level in 2007, it had to take the name university college, as it did not have the 4,000 required for the university title.

Now, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced a technical consultation which includes the possibility for institutions with 1,000 students, including at least 750 studying for a degree, to take the name.

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Professor John Last principal, said: 'Despite high demand and applications to study at NUCA being 15pc higher than last year, control on student numbers at entry makes any significant growth impossible. Well established, specialist institutions like NUCA, with an international reputation for excellence, deserve to be recognised as full universities with an equal status to other multi faculty Higher Education Institutions.'

NUCA, which has 1,700 undergraduates and postgraduates, aspires to become Norwich University of the Arts and hopes that this name will lead to greater recognition.

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Keith Bartlett, deputy principal, said: 'It is excellent news that the coalition government has decided to review the criteria for university title. The quality of our teaching and the standards of our degrees are the same as those for degree courses in larger universities, and our academic staff are engaged in research and consultancy which is equivalent if not higher in standing to work by their peers in traditional universities. A university title will ensure that this quality is universally recognised.'

Mr Bartlett also said he hoped it would ease any confusion the term university college can cause.

He said: 'The university college title can cause confusion for students and employers alike, the term college being more commonly associated with sixth form and further education. As a higher education institution, NUCA only offers degree courses in arts, design and media, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. We would therefore welcome the clarity, equality and international recognition that the use of the university title would bring.'

The move would also bring the specialist arts institution in line with those in Canada and Europe which already have the title, including the Emily Carr University, in Vancouver, Canada, and University of the Arts in Bremen, Germany.

The Norwich School of Design was created in 1845 to help provide designers for local industries.

In 1965 it was approved to offer a Diploma in Art and Design and from 1975 it offered its first BA Honours degree courses in Fine Art and Graphic Design.

It merged with Great Yarmouth College of Art to form the Norfolk Institute of Art and Design in 1989, with the first MA course introduced in 1993.

In 1994 it was renamed the Norwich School of Art and Design as it was as incorporated as a Higher Education Institution and in November 2007 was renamed the Norwich University College of the Arts after it was granted the power to award degrees up to Masters level.

The deadline for responses to the government's consultation is October 27.

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