UEA 50th: Just how important is the University of East Anglia to the rest of Norfolk?

Marquees going up in front of the iconic ziggurats in readiness for the UEA's 50th anniversary celeb

Marquees going up in front of the iconic ziggurats in readiness for the UEA's 50th anniversary celebrations. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

As the University of East Anglia prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, reporter David Freezer investigates just how important the UEA is to our fine city.

It's worth more than £150million a year to the local economy, employs more than 3,500 staff and is responsible for the education of 13,500 students.

There is little denying that in its first 50 years the University of East Anglia has become an integral part of the Norwich community.

The university has been labelled as 'critical' to future economic growth in the region and its cultural significance has also been hailed as 'magnificent'.

Just last week the UEA achieved its highest-ever position in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, rising to 17th place.

The university was previously 28th in the Times table, and 32nd in the Sunday Times table, with the newspapers publishing a combined league table for the first time this year.

In April the UEA was ranked first in the Student Experience Survey 2013, as voted for by students around the country by rating their university across 21 categories.

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As the UEA prepares to hold a festival of celebration events throughout this Saturday, Chris Starkie, managing director of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said the importance of the UEA to the city cannot be underestimated.

'The stats don't lie, the university year on year has improved its reputation and has improved in the league tables and rightly it is now an institution the city can be proud of,' Mr Starkie said.

'It is an absolutely fundamental part of the city for those who walk their dog around the university estate, visit the UEA Broad, visit exhibitions at the Sainsbury Centre, those whose children or themselves go to study there, or who go to see bands play. It's a crucial component of the city and it can't be underestimated.

'In terms of economic growth for Norfolk and Suffolk, the future development and growth of the UEA is critical to our economic growth.'

Mr Starkie, pictured below, highlighted that the UEA's vice-chancellor, Professor Edward Acton, is on the New Anglia LEP's board of directors as proof of how important the organisation feels the UEA is to the region's economy.

He continued: 'The university is a significant employer in the area. The direct economic impact of its students and staff have previously been estimated at around £150 million a year. So it's a really big business but also the research and work the university does has a very direct impact, in terms of skills for businesses, it is critical in ensuring companies have a secure pipeline of talent so that companies small and large are able to grow.

'The loss of talented undergraduates has been an important issue because students going straight into jobs is important for both the Norfolk and regional economy.'

Mr Starkie also highlighted the benefits the UEA brings to the wider Norwich community, such as the sports facilities at the UEA Sportspark, which attracts around 1.3 million visitors a year.

These thoughts were echoed by Norwich South MP Simon Wright, who said: 'The UEA is important for Norwich in so many ways. I think it can be particularly very proud of its 50-year contribution to the life and vitality of the city and beyond.

'The university's economic importance to the area is enormous. The UEA is a major employer, one of the biggest in the city, and beyond the economic impact is the cultural impact, which is no less significant.

'There's the Sainsbury Centre and the contribution to creative writing in Norwich is a big part of the successful bid to become the UNESCO City of Literature.

'The sporting contribution of the Sportspark as well, which is a fantastic facility with an Olympic-sized swimming pool and extensive activities that the whole community can benefit from.

'Speaking to many of the students at the UEA it is really noticeable how many come here for the UEA but fall in love with the city as well and want to continue to contribute to life in Norwich beyond their studies.

'Countless students and people across the community are brought to Norwich because of the university and that is magnificent.'

- To read why students think the UEA is such a good university, see tomorrow's EDP or Norwich Evening News, and email your memories of your time at the UEA to david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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