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Former Manchester United footballers launch pioneering university

Manchester United footballers from the famous “Class of 92” have teamed up with organisations including Microsoft to launch a “game changing” university in the heart of the city.

UA92, which will be based in Trafford, was the brainchild of Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, who were part of a group of talented youngsters who helped the club dominate English football in the 1990s.

Their vision is to offer students an alternative to existing higher education courses in Greater Manchester and elsewhere in the UK. The city is currently home to 100,000 full-time and part-time students.

UA92 has been joined by Trafford Council and Lancaster University to develop the concept, which is also being supported by local developer Bruntwood and Trafford College. The college will give students aged 16 to 19 access to technical and professional qualifications in business, sport excellence and media, combined with a skills development programme.

Former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville speaks at the launch of UA92, with Trafford Council chief executive Theresa Grant

Former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville speaks at the launch of UA92, with Trafford Council chief executive Theresa Grant

At a launch event at Trafford Town Hall this week, Gary Neville said that by ensuring graduates had access to paid work placements with companies and organisations – including Microsoft partners – as well as an educational curriculum, they would leave UA92 with an academic qualification as well as critical life skills.

“I have always believed that success is down to more than just having talent and good luck. There should be no limits to what you can achieve with the right preparation,” he said.

“Our aim is that UA92 graduates would leave with an academic qualification, of course, but also with a range of other skills such as how to deal with pressure, understand finance, leadership and presentational skills, and also how to maintain a healthy body and mind. In other words, the complete package you need to succeed in the workplace.”

The planned campus will feature a Microsoft Technology Centre that will include an Executive Briefing Centre, Experience Centre and Virtual Reality Suite, as well as hot-desking space and areas for local start-ups to learn and network. Microsoft’s technology will also underpin the university’s “Career Passport” – a competency-based performance and talent assessment tracking application.

An artist's impression of the new university

An artist’s impression of the new university

Derrick McCourt, General Manager of Microsoft UK’s Customer Success Unit, said: “UA92’s mission to nurture talent and ambition is closely aligned with Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more. This is an industry-education partnership. We want to develop young people who can land in companies and make a difference, as well as futureproofing their digital skills. We believe in giving young people the right skills, and that every person in the UK can be part of the fourth industrial revolution.”

The project also chimes with Microsoft’s Digital Skills initiative with its previously announced commitment to ensuring three million UK students are engaged in coding and computing by 2020, the training of 30,000 new Digital Apprentices by the same year, helping 30,000 public sector officials learn new digital skills, and re-training 500,000 Cloud experts.

The campus will be located on the site of the Kellogg’s office in Old Trafford, just a couple of miles from Manchester United’s stadium. The project will spark regeneration of the area, with student accommodation also included in the plans.

“When we were at Manchester United, we received a football education and much more,” Gary Neville said. “When we finished football, we wanted to give people the same opportunities we had. We looked at the basic traits need by young people heading for a world of work. People who succeed at the highest level have character. That’s the ethic of UA92.”

Map of Manchester showing university location

The university will be built on the site of Kellogg’s headquarters near Manchester United’s home ground

He also wanted to ensure every student who graduates from UA92 had the digital skills they needed to thrive in the future, which is part of the reason Microsoft is involved.

Phil Neville said: “Digital skills are massively important nowadays, and I wish I had been given this opportunity to develop my computer skills. I do presentations and my son and daughter, at 13 and 14, are driving my PowerPoint presentation, downloading the documents and putting them together.

“Microsoft are a crucial partner, partly because of their respectability, but also because their vision of what they want to do at the university has inspired us all. Microsoft are at the heart of this university.”

Former Manchester United footballers Nicky Butt (third from left) and Phil Neville (fourth from left) were also at the launch

Former Manchester United footballers Nicky Butt (third from left, front row) and Phil Neville (fourth from left, front row) were also at the launch

The project was also hailed by the Government, with the Department for Education (DfE) claiming it was a “ground-breaking new model of higher education”.

“If we are to meet the future skills needs of this country we cannot stand still,” a spokesman said. “We must ensure that our higher education system is fulfilling its potential and meeting the demand for new ways of learning with strong routes to employment.

“The partnering of business giants, including Microsoft, with Lancaster University highlights how academia and business can collaborate to create a ground-breaking new model of higher education. New and independent providers have always played an important role in increasing choice and extending the benefits of higher education to more people and UA92 is true to that mission.”

The founders and partners will now launch a three-month consultation with stakeholders. The first students are expected to start at UA92 in late 2019.