The identity of the higher education (HE) delivery partner for the new university of Peterborough will be announced on July 14. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) Skills Committee was given an update on the progress of planning the university and the organisation that will help local authorities deliver the plans. Cllr John Holdich (Conservative, Leader of Peterborough City Council), told Monday’s meeting: “The report we’re presenting is the culmination of the work done to complete the full business case for Phase One of the University of Peterborough.
“It includes delegation of authority to John T Hill and the CPCA Business Board to complete the legal negotiations between the university and our key HE property company putting all the elements of this project together for the first time.”
Kim Cooke, Project Lead for the University of Peterborough, added: “The full business case has been written following consultation after the outline business case was presented to the CPCA in January.
“It details the full operating model and the procurement of the main contractor and all the works that need to be done to mobilise Phase One of the project.
“We’re also very happy to be announcing on July 14 next week who our HE delivery partner will be, a fundamental component for the success of the scheme, with planning submissions being presented the week after that.”
John T Hill, chief executive of the CPCA Business Board, said: “Because of the CovidD-19 crisis the CPCA, its consultants in education delivery models MACE and the selected HE delivery partner have spent the last 6-7 weeks working through and re-working their business models to ‘stress-test’ it for a post-Covid recessional educational environment.
“What that has done is to provide some depth of reassurance that this particular business model and this HE delivery partner, who will be announced next week, are probably the best possible combination to withstand the post-Covid impact on education providers.
“The reasons for this are that this particular HE delivery provider has a very low exposure to international students’ income, less than 5 per cent.
“We have all read in the media about universities suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic and some potentially having to shut their doors because of no income streams from international students as they may have enjoyed in the past.
“Our chosen HE delivery partner has a fractional proportion of their income from international students and so they are relatively robust.
“The other key reason, among a half dozen or so that we can be confident about, is that this particular partner has already been working towards ‘remote-learning’ and ‘blended-learning’ systems, so their need to step up to that kind of learning is already in place which ensures a much lower physical intensity of students on campus.”
Cllr Chris Seaton (Conservative, Fenland District Council), asked if the business model had been rigorously tested. Kim Cooke said: “To reassure you councillor the answer is a very definite ‘yes’. Apart from proving through the COVID-stress test we have approached our HE delivery partner about their commercial viability and the fact that the University of Peterborough is predicated upon digitalisation and technology puts them and us ahead of the curve really.
“This means our proposed delivery partner can be quite lean with their use of staff and the way that they deliver the curriculum, bearing in mind that at lot of that will be based around in-work curricula for higher-level apprenticeships which are not usually campus-based.
“They know we’re looking for a forward-thinking, in-work, digital way of delivering education and that’s how the entire project was written, pre-COVID, and that is now coming into its own, post-COVID”.
Metro Mayor, James Palmer who has overseen the collaboration with Peterborough City Council bringing the project to fruition, said of the project: “The University of Peterborough will deliver courses targeted specifically at industries across the city where demand currently outstrips the availability of skilled workers, creating a pipeline of future employees.
“Unlike traditional universities that offer academic learning only, the University of Peterborough will provide students with the necessary training and skills to be directly successful in a range of employment disciplines.”
The University of Peterborough project is on track to open its doors to its first 2,000 students in September 2022, and by 2030, it is expected to offer courses for up to 12,500 students.
The first three faculties of the university are set to include business, innovation entrepreneurship and professional services; information technology, digital and creative services and agricultural technology and environmental services. Planned future faculties include health and social care, engineering, manufacturing and advanced manufacturing.
Courses will be delivered through a mixture of on campus lessons, in-work training and apprenticeships, with distance learning to improve accessibility and widen participation.
The university will work with local industry and businesses to help shape the curriculum and secure opportunities to maximise the employability of its students.