Revealed: City location for Norfolk University Technical College

Artists impression of Norfolk University Technical College which is due to open in September 2014.

Artists impression of Norfolk University Technical College which is due to open in September 2014. - Credit: Supplied

An enormous disused factory on the outskirts of Norwich is set to be transformed into one of the government's flagship university technical colleges (UTC) by September 2014.

The Norfolk UTC, which was approved by ministers last year, will be part of the Transforming Education in Norfolk group led by chief executive Dick Palmer and run in partnership with Norwich City College, the University of East Anglia, Group Lotus, Gardline and Future Marine Services.

TEN has announced the college would be based in the 5,400 sq m former Connaught factory at Old Hall Road, between Hall Road and Ipswich Road, in Norwich.

Mr Palmer said the college had been given £7m of government funding to transform the empty factory and buy equipment needed for the UTC. He said he would have liked more but believed the expertise and support of sponsors would ensure the end result was impressive.

'We're absolutely confident it will be a stunning, iconic institution once we are there in August 2014,' he said.

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Norfolk UTC will cater for up to 600 students – with 150 being admitted in the first year – aged 14 to 19. It will concentrate on arming pupils for the skills needed to pursue careers in engineering, energy and manufacturing.

Students would work towards GCSEs and the government's new English Baccalaureate qualifications in the first two years before choosing either an academic or vocational route, focused on the UTC's three key disciplines, from year 12 onwards.

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But Mr Palmer said the Old Hall Road building conversion would make it clear students were not learning in a traditional classroom environment. Plans for the site include a prototype development laboratory, computer-aided design studios and research centres.

'That mezzanine floor and the floor underneath it will take about half of the main building,' said Mr Palmer. 'The second half will have the really big equipment in it – the really hard engineering and manufacturing stuff. We will be able to bring in specific pieces of equipment to help students learn. There will be a double-height entrance so if we wanted to look at an articulated lorry, we could drive it into that space.'

UTC students would work through a series of 'technical challenges' set by companies to ensure they leave with practical skills as well as official qualifications.

Mr Palmer, who stepped down from his role as principal at City College Norwich last year to become chief executive for the TEN group, said: 'We have already designed some of those with people like Gardline and have already mapped some of the challenges against, for example, the English Baccalaureate qualification.

'So if students were looking at getting a data cable from an offshore turbine to the power source inland, we have mapped what maths would be involved, the English skills it would cover, even the history.'

John Morse, of Norfolk UTC partner Gardline, added: 'The Norfolk UTC is what we and other employers in advanced engineering and the energy sector have been seeking for some time.'

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