MILTON Keynes is taking a significant step towards having its own University.
A new and unique partnership between Milton Keynes Council and the University of Bedfordshire has come together to create the ‘University College Milton Keynes’.
Set to open its doors this September to deliver higher education courses from its home in Central Milton Keynes, the new development has been welcomed by civic leaders, the Higher Education Board, business and the education sector.
Chief Executive of Milton Keynes Council, David Hill, said: “Our long term ambition has been to provide face-to-face degree-level teaching to our growing communities, without the need for people to travel elsewhere.
“The announcement of University College Milton Keynes is a significant step toward this vision.
“The University of Bedfordshire is a like minded partner, and I am delighted we are working with them. It’s an excellent fit alongside the local higher education provision being developed by the FE College and that offered to students around the world from Milton Keynes by the Open University.
“The council acknowledges, with gratitude, the leadership role that Milton Keynes College has played in the development of University Centre Milton Keynes, and its significant investment of capital and human resources which have enabled us to reach this exciting opportunity.”
The University College is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years to offer courses at all levels – honours degrees, Master’s degrees, and Doctorates – across a range of subjects.
At its heart will be a new Faculty of Engineering and Technology expected to launch in September 2013. This will offer a variety of professionally-recognised degree programmes and will also be the home of important research initiatives, such as the Smart Cities Institute and the Centre for Telehealth.
The University College will also offer a growing array of courses relevant to business, education and health, as well as a tailored Continuing Professional Development provision for businesses.
Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, Professor Les Ebdon said: “We believe that access to higher education can transform people’s lives and so we are delighted to be working with Milton Keynes Council on this exciting initiative.
“University College Milton Keynes will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Bedfordshire. However, we wanted to ensure we recognise the strength of the ‘Milton Keynes’ brand, which is why we chose the name.”
The University is working with the Privy Council to secure the permission to use the prestigious University College title.
Professor Ebdon will by replaced as Vice Chancellor on his retirement in August by current Deputy Vice Chancellor at Plymouth University and former Government Higher Education Minister of State, Bill Rammell.
Mr Rammell said: “By coincidence, I was the first visitor to the University Centre while it was still under construction in 2008.
“I was thrilled to learn about the proposal to develop the University College in Milton Keynes. This is a hugely important development for the University and the people of Milton Keynes.”
Professor Keith Straughan has been appointed Interim Dean of University College Milton Keynes. He has joined from Milton Keynes College, where he was Vice Principal responsible for the University Centre, and was previously based at Cambridge University.
He added: “The Higher Education Board and the College have been instrumental in setting up this important opportunity for the community. We are grateful and proud of the foundation they have built through the University Centre.
“The new University College will now add significantly to the city’s profile through the presence of a true, local university offering high quality teaching and ambitious research.”
Milton Keynes College, which has been a faithful supporter of the city’s quest for a university for many years, has expressed its strong support for the University College initiative.
Principal Dr Julie Mills said: “The College is proud to have led over the last four years the city’s quest to establish a local university presence through our nurture of the University Centre.
“We welcome the expansion in scale and breadth that the University College brings to the city and we look forward to developing a strong partnership with the University College so that together we can provide the skills needs for our exciting city.”
The new project has also gained the support of the city’s MPs.
Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart released a joint statement calling the move ‘a significant step in higher education for Milton Keynes’.
Other city luminaries also welcomed the new facility, including interim Chamber of Commerce chief executive Colin Fox, Business Council chairman Dr Philip Smith and Glen Martin, who represents MK Secondary Heads on the Higher Education Board.
Mr Fox said: “This is a really important development for the city which desperately needs a quality face to face university presence to support and nurture its growing knowledge economy.
“The Chamber enthusiastically welcomes the University College and looks forward to working closely with it.”
Dr Philip Smith, who is also a member of the Governing Body for the University of Bedfordshire, said: “The city has been waiting for this development for a very long time.
“The University College brings the potential of supporting local people and the local economy so that we can compete effectively in an increasingly complex and competitive global context.
“We applaud the ambition of the University College and its commitment to excellence in teaching and research. It can be sure of an enthusiastic welcome from the business community.”
And Mr Martin, the headteacher at Shenley Brook End School, added: “The University College offers really exciting opportunities for the city. It is so important that we now have the opportunity to widen access opportunities to university education while maintaining a strong commitment to excellence.
“Local schools very much look forward to working with the University College. We are also excited about the opportunities to support teacher training and enhance teacher recruitment and retention.”