THE DOORS of a £29million new college campus – that will soon churn out the skilled people needed by industry for generations to come – have opened to welcome some 2,000 students this week.
Sunderland College has greeted its new student cohort at its City Campus, a state-of-the-art space in the heart of the city centre, after 22 months of work to develop the new 140,000 square-foot facility.
The campus, in the Park Lane area of the city centre, is home to advanced manufacturing and engineering facilities; a spa for beauty students; an 80-seater restaurant for those completing a catering and hospitality qualification, a flight cabin, for budding travel and tourism professionals and specialist facilities for those learning their trade in the construction industry.
Ellen Thinnesen, principal and chief executive at Sunderland College, said: “City Campus is unlike any other learning environment I have been in.
“We saw the plans of what it would look like and the facilities it would include, but it just doesn’t prepare you for the reality. Opening the doors to City Campus is a proud, proud moment in the college’s history. It is among the most impressive college buildings I have set foot in during my career in education – and I have been to a lot of colleges.”
While the wow-factor of City Campus is something that Ellen is proud of, her delight with the new building is based – in equal measure – on the practical benefits it will bring. From brand-new engineering spaces, to a stunning restaurant that will be staffed by students learning the art of food, hospitality and catering, the campus is set to change the way young people learn. And its connectivity – with its rail and road links – is already helping the college to attract students from beyond the boundaries of the city.
“We’re plugged in to the region – geographically and in terms of the economic needs of the area,” added Ellen.
“The new campus is very much focused on professional and technical skills, so it absolutely has to feel like a real-work environment where our young people can get the experience they will need to succeed in their future careers.
“We have designed each area of the campus as close as possible to the environments our young people will progress to in their career pathways, working very closely with industry leaders to ensure that this facility delivers in every way. It’s a fast changing world – particularly in industries like engineering – so it was important to meet a specification that aligns with industry standards. And indeed to ensure that the areas of study we are supporting are in tune with the jobs market and the city’s and wider North East priorities.”
Tiegan McCormick, 17, who’s been studying at the college for two years, completing an NVQ Level 2 in Hairdressing, said: “Our salon looks amazing – it’s like a real, professional salon. It makes me want to work even harder to be ready as quick as I can to start working with real customers!”
The new campus replaces the college’s old Hylton Campus, which closed for the final time in the summer. City Campus is one of four campuses across the city, with others at Washington, St Peter’s and the recently added-to Bede Campus, where Sunderland’s successful 6th form is located. Washington Campus is home to adult and Higher Education learning and St Peter’s welcomes further education students.