West Suffolk College will be ‘driving the engine of East Anglia’ if it is to realise the vision of its new principal.
Dr Nikos Savvas has stood at the helm of the Bury St Edmunds college since taking over the reins from Dr Ann Williams last September.
The father-of-three, who was born in the Greek capital, Athens, comes from a long line of teachers (at least five generations) and says it is the social consciousness behind the profession that has always interested him.
“For me, if you want to change the world for the better, you do it with education,” he said.
Sitting in his office in a new teaching block at the entrance to the main Out Risbygate site, he reveals ambitious plans to make the college the centre for education in East Anglia, building on the ‘solid foundations’ left by his predecessor, who retired last year after 33 years at the college.
Dr Williams was awarded an OBE for her contribution to the further education sector and Dr Savvos, who is keen to provide centres for excellence for some academic and vocational areas, also wants to drive ‘significant growth’ in the college’s higher education centre (UCS).
He said: “The legacy that Ann has left behind is absolutely brilliant, so we’re already starting from a strong point of view. Building on what came before is an enviable place to be.
“We have fantastic surroundings, all we need to do is take education to the next level.”
The 44-year-old’s vision is to create an institution which forces people wanting to learn to ask ‘why go anywhere else?’ and to put it ‘in the centre of activity’ by working more corroboratively with businesses and other institutions – the area’s ‘untapped resource’.
He said: “The first thing people do when they move into an area is see what the schools are like and that drives the economy.
“We are very lucky in Bury because we have outstanding schools, a fantastic college and we need to be driving the engine of East Anglia.
“Bury’s a beautiful town – as far as I’m concerned it is the jewel in Suffolk. You can’t help falling in love with the place, but that’s not enough once you’re here.
“If you want to keep the young people and want to develop a thriving economy you need to have brilliant education.”
The college currently works with around 1,600 businesses, has a student base of around 20,000 and employs about 750 members of staff.
Dr Savvas, who has a PHD in particle physics, said: “Universities don’t really train you for the world of work, we do.
“Our job is to train people to go to university but, at the same time, to train them for the world of work - we’re the link between education and business.”