Ipswich-based UCS to officially become the University of Suffolk as it gains independence from Norwich and Colchester

The Question Mark at UCS in Ipswich

The Question Mark at UCS in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Waterfront is set to become home to a full university on August 1.

The UCS buildings on Ipswich Waterfront.

The UCS buildings on Ipswich Waterfront. - Credit: Archant

The only question mark left at the heart of what is currently University Campus Suffolk will be the iconic statue that dominates the open space in front of the main building.

Because from August 1 UCS will officially become the University of Suffolk when it becomes a fully-independent seat of learning.

It will no longer rely on the University of East Anglia in Norwich and and the University of Essex in Colchester to validate its degrees.

More than three quarters of its students are based in Ipswich – and numbers are expected to rise significantly as the change in status puts the University of Suffolk on the world map, attracting some of the brightest students from across the globe in a move worth up to £30m to the local economy.

UCS Provost Richard Lister.

UCS Provost Richard Lister. - Credit: Archant

The University of Suffolk is likely to have its own chancellor and vice chancellor and have a similar administrative structure to other universities, able to validate its own degrees for the first time.

The award of full university status was granted by the Privy Council after UCS met specific criteria for the change.

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UCS provost and chief executive Richard Lister said the move was very important – especially when it comes to attracting foreign students.

“Our degrees are currently validated by the UEA and Essex. There are issues with some countries financing degrees that are validated by two institutions. Once we are a full university, that problem will be overcome,” he said.

The decision also means that UCS will receive direct government funding for the first time, enabling it to expand its teaching.

UCS was granted Taught Degree Awarding Powers in November 2015, allowing the institution to award its own undergraduate and taught postgraduate degrees.

It has held these powers in reserve until University title was secured. Future graduates will receive University of Suffolk degrees.

UCS was founded in 2007 as a unique collaboration between the universities of East Anglia and Essex, and a range of other partners, to establish a higher education institution in Suffolk.

Until today Suffolk was one of just four counties in England that did not have its own independent university.

Although its main site, and 75% of its students, are based at the Waterfront campus in Ipswich, it also has bases in Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

Mr Lister said: “It is very important to remember we are not the university of Ipswich. We are the University of Suffolk.

“People across the county are able to access our teaching.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be awarded University Title which makes the University of Suffolk a reality. We look forward to welcoming the first University of Suffolk students this September.

“Suffolk has waited a long time for its own university and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff, students, the UCS Students’ Union, our Learning Network Colleges, board members, partners and colleagues in Suffolk and beyond who have supported us along the way to independence. I would also like to thank UEA and Essex for their support and guidance in our years as UCS.”

“This is clear recognition that we have consistently demonstrated the quality and track record to enable us to sit alongside any other University in the country. I am very proud of our achievement.

“Becoming the University of Suffolk will enable us to expand our work and offer the transformational experience of higher education to even more people. It is expected that we will see an increase in our student numbers and it will make it easier for international students to join us. Over time we expect to grow by 50% and it is anticipated that by 2020, the University of Suffolk could boost Suffolk’s economy by £25m to £30m per year.”


UCS was founded in 2007, taking over the higher education functions of Suffolk College in Ipswich – but also opening campuses at Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth and taking on higher education courses from colleges in these towns.

At present there are 4,200 full-time equivalent students split between the sites – a total of more than 5,000 students, some doing part-time courses.

Ipswich Waterfront campus has 75% of the students, 14% are based at the Bury St Edmunds campus which is shared with West Suffolk College, 5% are based at Lowestoft, 4% at Great Yarmouth and 2% are based at Suffolk New College in Ipswich.

UCS is already developing a worldwide reputation for research and courses in subjects including life science, some areas of medicine, nursing, tourism and several technical subjects.

It also provides high-quality honours degree courses across a range of subjects for people who want to stay in the county.

Statistics show that a significant number of graduates stay in the area in which they studied, bringing high wages to a community.

Welcoming the news

There was a widespread welcome, both nationally and locally, for the news.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson, said: “For too long many in Suffolk have had to turn to other parts of the UK for higher education.

“I’m enormously pleased that UCS has demonstrated its ability to meet the needs of students and can now be called a University in its own right.”

The Universities of Essex and East Anglia warmly welcomed the news and will continue to work with the University of Suffolk.

Chair of the UCS Board Will Pope said: “I am very proud of what has been achieved by University Campus Suffolk in gaining full independence and becoming the University of Suffolk.

“When UCS was created it was anticipated we would achieve this important step in about 20 years; to do so in just eight goes to show the dedication, determination and hard work that this institution not only advocates but lives by.

“I and my fellow board members would like to pay tribute to all the staff, students and supporters of UCS in fully backing the journey to independence. ”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “A University of Suffolk is a dream fulfilled. That it has taken hundreds of years to realise this dream speaks volumes about the efforts of the people who have made this possible, first among them Richard Lister, who has shown remarkable leadership and tenacity in gaining university status for UCS in record time.”

“That we will now have a university of our own, one that is gaining a reputation for excellence and endeavour in spreading opportunity to all parts of our community, says so much about the progress we are making as a town and as a county.”

His predecessor as MP, Chris Mole, pushed very hard for the development of UCS, and said that today’s news was a significant step after a long campaign.

He said: “My involvement goes back to 1994 when a group of us started talking to what was then Suffolk College about establishing a full university in Ipswich.

“I am delighted by this news. I cannot think of any other development in the area over the last 30 years that has been so significant for the young people of Suffolk.”

Suffolk’s Lord Lieutenant Lady Euston said “I am delighted that, at long last, Suffolk will have its own fully independent University.

“This is a turning point in the educational life of this great county, and has been a long time in the making.”

Deborah Cadman, chief executive of Suffolk County Council and a board member at UCS, said: “UCS has been a real success story for Ipswich and wider Suffolk communities.

“Developing the waterfront site year on year with its ever growing student body, their facilities are excellent and there’s a great buzz around Ipswich waterfront and the town as a whole.

“A great deal of credit must go to Richard and his whole team who have worked tirelessly to develop such a broad range of subjects that students can now study there.

“It is fantastic news that they have been awarded independent status, my congratulations go to everyone involved. It’s an historic moment for the county as we celebrate university status”

“Ipswich is really going places with significant investment and new development planned for coming years. The students who come to study in Suffolk have the opportunity to help shape the future of the town and be part of its renaissance by living, working and studying in Ipswich at the new university.”