Ormskirk gets better by degrees
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