Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal – Historic Groundbreaking Ceremony Marks Start of Barrow’s First University Campus

Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal, made a historic visit to the nationally significant site of BAE Systems – Submarines on 15 November. The Princess Royal’s tour included the Submarine Academy for Skills and Knowledge and the adjacent site earmarked for Barrow’s inaugural University of Cumbria campus.

In a symbolic gesture witnessed by dignitaries and invited guests, the Princess Royal ceremonially ‘broke ground’ for the multi-million-pound campus, utilising a shovel crafted by apprentices from BAE Systems. The event marked a pivotal moment for Barrow, as it signals the commencement of construction for the town’s first-ever university campus.

CANDOFM news team member Emily Smith had the exclusive opportunity to speak with several dignitaries and guests present during the event, capturing their insights and reactions. The University of Cumbria, BAE Systems Submarines, and collaborative partners welcomed Her Royal Highness to the dockside site where the new campus will stand, adjacent to the Submarine Academy for Skills and Knowledge on Barrow Island.

The Princess Royal was invited to ‘break ground’ on the construction site, using a specially crafted shovel produced by a team of BAE Systems employees. Leaders elaborated on how the campus fits into the Barrow Learning Quarter, one of the seven projects under the ambitious #BrilliantBarrow initiative.

Steve Cole, CIO & operational improvement director at BAE Systems Ltd and chair of the Brilliant Barrow town deal board, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “Offering a university education within a dedicated campus setting here in Barrow has the potential to change the lives and the future of so many people for generations to come.”

The Brilliant Barrow initiative, granted £25 million from the UK Government’s £3.6 billion Towns Funds, aims to transform the region for future generations, fostering a thriving environment for living, working, studying, and visiting.

Barrow Learning Quarter focuses on transforming educational opportunities and skill-building in the region, providing the new university campus and a skills hub for sixth form students at Furness College’s Rating Lane site. It is a collaborative effort involving the University of Cumbria, Furness College, and partners such as BAE Systems, Lancaster University, and Westmorland and Furness Council.

Aligned with the needs of local employers, the initiative aims to improve long-term career prospects and enhance the competitiveness of businesses. Professor Julie Mennell DL, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cumbria, expressed her excitement about the project’s potential impact on Barrow-in-Furness, stating, “A new university campus here will not only drive our mission to transform lives and livelihoods but will contribute to the future growth and prosperity of the area.”

BAE Systems’ recent £3.95 billion award from the Ministry of Defence for the next phase of the UK’s next-generation Royal Navy submarine program, known as SSN-AUKUS, will further boost the region. The funding covers development work until 2028, with significant investments in the Barrow shipyard, supply chain, and the recruitment of over 5,000 people.

Developing a full university presence in Barrow is expected to attract and retain talented graduates to meet the area’s growing skills needs. The University of Cumbria will offer degree-level programs in project management, business, computing, and engineering at the new campus, serving as the base for the university’s Institute of engineering, computing, and advanced manufacturing.

Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024, with the campus officially opening in January 2025. As the community eagerly anticipates this transformative project, an open evening on 21 November will provide more information about the University of Cumbria’s new suite of degree-level programs in Barrow.

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