City counting the benefits of new university a year after opening
It was just a year ago that ARU Peterborough, the city’s new university, opened its doors for the first time, but the benefits are already being felt.
When the first students arrived on campus on September 20, 2022, it was the realisation of a decades-long ambition in Peterborough to build a university. Devolution and the creation of the Combined Authority finally gave the vision the impetus – and funding – needed to make it a reality. A unique partnership between the Combined Authority, Peterborough City Council and Anglia Ruskin University led to the university being ready for opening on schedule and on budget, even with the challenges brought by Covid-19.
Just 12 months on, investment in ARU Peterborough, the majority of which has come from the Combined Authority or through the Business Board, is already paying dividends for the local area.
With a key aim of addressing a lack of higher education qualifications in the city and surrounding area, ARU Peterborough has so far seen about a half of applications come from PE postcodes and the surrounding region. The university has also already won or been shortlisted for a string of awards. They are:
- Winner of The Alliance Award at the University Alliance (UK) Awards 2023, recognising making an impact through collaboration.
- Winner of the University Impact Initiative of the Year title at the Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) awards.
- Shortlisted for the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community award in the forthcoming Times Higher Education Awards 2023 – widely known as the Oscars of the UK university sector. ARU Peterborough also played a key role in ARU being shortlisted in the overall University of the Year category.
- University House, the main building, is shortlisted for the forthcoming Higher Education Project of the Year in the AJ Architecture Awards 2023, run by the Architects’ Journal.
- Shortlisted for University of the Year in the forthcoming UK Social Mobility Awards.
- Three of the first year Degree Apprentices won ‘Apprentice of the Year’ at the Peterborough Apprenticeship Awards 2023.
Other positive impacts and milestones are:
- In spring 2023, work started on a second teaching building on the former Regional Pool car park, incorporating the ‘Living Lab’, a publicly accessible, interactive science facility and education space, and due to be completed autumn 2024.
- More than 1,600 local school children visited ARU Peterborough in its first year. Visits were interactive, working with ARU Peterborough course teams to show students what a university has to offer, and aiming to inspire future generations – a key reason for establishing ARU Peterborough in the city. The Peterborough IntoUniversity Centre was also launched to provide long-term educational support to young people facing disadvantage and who are typically underrepresented in higher education.
- The university’s first international students started in winter 2023, and were greeted with a civic reception from Peterborough’s Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
- Completed external work on the Research and Innovation Centre, phase 2 of the campus.
- Thousands of members of the public welcomed to the campus on each of the ARU Peterborough Community Days.
- Supported 700 small and micro businesses as part of Small Business Britain’s Small and Mighty Enterprise programme.
- Hosted 140 business leaders from the region at the “Support for Business to Survive and Thrive in 2023” event in January.
- Fifty small and medium-sized businesses, including from the Peterborough area, supported on the Help to Grow: Management programme.
- More than 30 community groups and events have been welcomed on campus. These range from drop-in sessions for local people with Peterborough police in the welcoming environment of University House to hosting the sell-out Peterborough Civic Society Annual Lecture by bestselling author Dr Janina Ramirez.
- The landscaping of the campus is designed to create wildlife habitat and improve biodiversity.
ARU Peterborough offers a range of courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including both full time and part time study, degree apprenticeships, and degrees with work placements. In addition, there are a range of short courses and continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities. What makes ARU Peterborough distinct is the linking of the courses directly to the skills needs of employers, who themselves were co-creators of the curriculum. These links are aimed at helping learners into great careers, creating a high skilled, productive local workforce. This in turn will support wider Combined Authority goals of increasing prosperity and reducing inequality which in turn supports stronger communities and improved public health and wellbeing.
The next key milestone for the university will be the completion of the second teaching building in a year’s time.
Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson, said: “ARU Peterborough’s potential was obvious from the outset, and to see it become such a success so soon – for students, for the surrounding community, and for the local economy – is hugely encouraging. There’s clearly a bright future ahead for the university, and with it the city as a whole, and I look forward to continuing what has proven to be a very effective partnership in driving forwards this outstanding achievement.”
Professor Ross Renton, Principal of ARU Peterborough, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has supported the first year of the new university, not least the Combined Authority and Peterborough City Council. We couldn’t have asked for better partners. We are also immensely grateful to the local community and employers, who have given us such a warm welcome.
“It’s only right that we celebrate the impressive successes we’ve already achieved at ARU Peterborough. However, this is a long-term commitment and the truly significant benefits for Peterborough and the wider region will be realised in the years ahead.”
Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, Leader of Peterborough City Council, said: “It’s been a superb first year for ARU Peterborough which has really put itself on the city map and is now an established and striking part of Peterborough’s landscape. Not only have students taken on their courses with great gusto, but they have also created a warm and sociable environment for visitors and businesses to the campus, making it somewhere that we can all be proud of.
“With the additional government funding and the new teaching building on the way, the establishment will only continue to grow and prosper, and enhance the city offering for years and decades into the future.”
Al Kingsley, Chair of the Business Board, said: “The Business Board has supported ARU Peterborough right from the very start with an initial £12.5 million in investment. We knew how important it was for the city and immediate region to address skills gaps that have limited its potential, while also creating a campus that will foster stronger links between, research, innovation and business, creating the dynamic enterprise and high value jobs we need in the future.
“The ARU Peterborough story so far has been all about momentum. The first teaching building was delivered on time and there has since been a further £20 million in funding from Government for the second teaching building. In 12 months since opening, there has been wide recognition of the benefits that have already followed and excitement about the potential to come.”