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Wakefield to get its first university?

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Wakefield’s university dream looks set to become a reality.

The team behind live events education centre Backstage Academy are taking the first steps towards creating the district’s first ever independent university, at Production Park in South Kirkby.

Degrees at the centre are currently validated by the University of Bolton.

But managing director Glen Rowe said a two-year process, building up to the academy’s application to award degrees independently, is now underway.

If approved, the university could be up and running by 2020.

Glen Rowe, managing director at Backstage Academy, said: “We are now following the TDAP (Taught Degree Awarding Powers) process.

“It takes a long time but things are going really well. We will have the world’s first live events touring university and Wakefield’s first university.”

Mr Rowe said the team are working with architects to draw up plans for new “world class” facilities for the university.

It will sit in the heart of Production Park, as Backstage Academy currently does, among companies who specialise in tour production, staging and set design.

Mr Rowe said: “It will be great to have a university nestled among this in Wakefield.

“This world-wide news will be amazing for the district - people will come from all over the globe to learn here, which really excites me.

“Wakefield will become the Pinewood Studios [film and television hub] for the live events industry, with dozens of class A bands coming here to rehearse, to build their stages and their tours and the students will be part of that. We are really proud.”

Whilst people are already able to study degrees in the district, through Backstage Academy or the university centre at Wakefield College, the area does not have its own university.

Mr Rowe, who has been a tour manager for artists including The Kooks and Amy MacDonald and tour director for Muse, said university status for the district was “long overdue”.

“I think it’s absolutely about time there was a university here in Wakefield and one that looks at jobs and gets young people to know what’s out there,” he said.

“There are so many transferable skills from our educational outlet that give people the opportunity to travel the world.”

Coun Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council, said it was “fantastic news” that Wakefield could have its first independent university, offering people the chance to gain degrees in the district.

He said: “I hope this new university for live events will inspire young people to aim high to achieve degree level qualifications.

“This supports our long term goal to raise skills levels and aspirations across our district.”

Mr Rowe said being a university in its own right will mean Backstage can make amends to courses more easily, to ensure they reflect a rapidly changing industry.

He said: “The music industry changes so much and live events have become so technologically advanced. Students need to have their finger on the pulse.

“We are at the front of the industry and we know how it is progressing.

“Being an independent university will mean we can make changes to reflect that much more easily.

“It means we can be so relevant, so well-informed and our students will get the best employment options they can get.”

To celebrate the news, the academy will take a tour bus around the UK for three weeks from January 22.

The tour team will visit schools and colleges to tell young people about the live events industry, what goes on behind the scenes at Production Park, and what’s on offer in live events and roadie education.

l Backstage Academy was founded in July 2009

l It is expected the new live events university will be up and running by 2020

l Backstage offers degree courses in stage management, live events production and live visual design

l Its students have gone on to gain employment with the Jay Z world tour, Glastonbury site office, Leeds Festival, Alton Towers, Mumford and Sons tour and the Winter Olympics

l The new university will be dedicated to the live events industry, with courses likely to range from giving a general overview of touring production, to looking at specific areas such as sound and lighting