Orm­skirk gets bet­ter by de­grees

Lancashire Life - - PLACES TO VISIT - WORDS: Martin Pilk­ing­ton PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: John Cocks

Hav­ing 10,000 stu­dents on the doorstep is help­ing

this West Lan­cashire town cen­tre to thrive

Orm­skirk, for Lan­cas­tri­ans at least, has long been known for the tasty potatoes grown in its loamy soil and the gin­ger­bread made in the town since the 18th cen­tury. These days, in the county and beyond it, the name of Edge Hill Uni­ver­sity is likely to pop up when the West Lancs mar­ket town is men­tioned.

‘The institutio­n has been in Orm­skirk since 1933,’ ex­plains Roy Bay­field, its di­rec­tor of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions. ‘At that point we were a teacher train­ing col­lege – we orig­i­nated in 1885 in the Edge Hill Dis­trict of Liver­pool. Un­til the 1970s train­ing teach­ers was all we did, but since then we’ve steadily added sub­jects and now, as a

uni­ver­sity, of­fer a full range of cour­ses.’

The next ad­di­tion is a med­i­cal school, due to begin train­ing doc­tors in 2020. It is a move that is likely to in­crease the number of full-time stu­dents, cur­rently to­talling around 10,000.

‘Along with the course de­vel­op­ment has come the phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment,’ he adds. ‘Start­ing from the 1930s col­lege building, the site has ex­panded to cre­ate the mile-long cam­pus we now have, while re­tain­ing the green space – we don’t want to turn it into a con­crete jun­gle.’

The uni­ver­sity, with alumni in­clud­ing broad­caster Stu­art Ma­conie and stage and screen ac­tor Jonathan Pryce, is equally de­ter­mined to be part of the com­mu­nity, with fa­cil­i­ties like the sports cen­tre, pool, fit­ness suite and walk­ing and run­ning tracks widely used by lo­cals. As be­fits a cen­tre of learning, Edge Hill plays its part in boost­ing the cul­tural and in­tel­lec­tual life of the area too.

‘Last year saw a ma­jor ef­fort to get big name speak­ers on cam­pus,’ says Paula Keav­eney, a se­nior lec­turer in pol­i­tics and pub­lic re­la­tions. ‘We had John Ber­cow, the Com­mons Speaker, and Caro­line Lucas of the Greens, and this Oc­to­ber for­mer min­is­ter Nicky Morgan is here – all part of a thread about women, vot­ing and democ­racy. It’s great for stu­dents, but also for lo­cals hav­ing this on the doorstep in­stead of hav­ing

LEFT: The lively street mar­ket op­er­ates on Thurs­days and Satur­days ABOVE: Edge Hill Uni­ver­sity has been based in the town since the 1930s

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