College wins battle to use Wigan's old UTC building
Wigan and Leigh College has been chosen to take over and expand into the buildings once occupied by the town’s now defunct UTC.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson gave the nod to the neighbouring institution on Parson’s Walk in preference to a bid from Bolton University which hoped to use the former Rushton’s Mill as a higher education annexe.
The university technical college shut in the summer of 2019 due to a shortage of students.
W&L says its submission was closely aligned to objectives in the Wigan Employment and Skills Strategy and in a competitive process it had secured approval from the Department for Education.
As part of the college estate and in the town’s Education Quarter, the new Centre for Advanced Technical Studies - as it will be called - will focus on providing a wider choice of higher education in skill priority areas to Wigan borough
Aspects of the college’s University Centre will be based in the building along with the Government’s new flag-ship T-level qualifications.
The centre will also provide the facilities for skills programmes being developed by the education and skills partnership between Edge Hill University, Wigan Council, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL).
A spokesman said that the collaboration of the partners will “result in new programmes being delivered in Wigan and a local higher education partnership focused on boosting the education, health and economic prospects of the borough.”
The centre will focus on providing courses in key skill areas such as health, care and medical, education and digital, enabling students to start their studies at an advanced level and progress through to completing their higher education.
There is no mention of what will happen to what was the UTC’s pride and joy “vertical farm” - a multi-million-pound installation unique to Britain but increasingly popular in other parts of the world, which is used for teaching the full food cultivation and manufacturing process.
Anna Dawe, CEO and principal of Wigan and Leigh College, said: “Having the option to study higher and university provision in our own borough is a huge boost to the both the economy of the borough and to the health and life chances of residents.
“Having this facility means we can extend the range of course currently offered in our University Centre, and with quality partners such as Edge Hill and WWL we can develop accessible higher level training that leads to sustainable employment.
“We already have a strong higher level engineering specialism but we want that to expand to health, education and digital and this gives us the ability to make that a reality.”
Wigan Council’s leader David Molyneux said: “This is an important and symbolic milestone for the borough and the partnership.
“During the latest Big Listening Project exercise with young people, the majority of those asked agreed that we should prioritise improving education facilities, while ensuring there are plenty of local job prospects.
“Together, we will work hard to provide these opportunities, ensuring that our residents have a clear pathway to a meaningful career and exciting future.”
Richard Mundon, WWL’s director of strategy and planning, said: “We are pleased and proud to be a partner in this project which will improve education and skills in areas such as health, and enhance employment opportunities in the Wigan Borough and thrilled that the Rushton Building will be a tangible centre piece for this collaboration.”
Deputy vice-chancellor of Edge Hill University, Steve Igoe, said: “The news is an exciting key milestone for this collaboration and we’re keen to work with our partners to develop plans that will make the most of the building space to support future prospects for local communities.”
The college said that over the next year courses will start to be delivered from the site while work is also undertaken to provide the facilities needed from September 2021.
Bolton University had hoped to turn the premises into a “university campus facility and centre of excellence.”
The former UTC premises are owned by the Department for Education and will be leased to Wigan and Leigh College.
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