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Official opening of Buchanan Centre

18 October 2018

The official opening of the Advanced Engineering and Construction Centre at Bedford College took place on Tuesday October 16th.

Named the Buchanan Centre after the first woman member of the Institution of Civil Engineers Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan (1895 - 1957), the centre was declared open by Professor Helen Atkinson of Cranfield University.

Before cutting the ribbon Professor Helen Atkinson said:  “People with technical skills really do matter to the economy, to help fulfil the requirements of industry.  It is a privilege to open this new building.”

The Buchanan name reflects the choices of Bedford College in celebrating the best figures in modern technologies and education. The Brundtland Building, a showcase of eco-technologies, is named after Gro Harlem Brundtland a Director General of the World Health Organisation who pioneered sustainable development. The Stansfeld Building is after Margaret who established Bedford College of Physical Development and is considered a national pioneer of widening women’s opportunities.

Local Growth Minister, Jake Berry MP, said: “Our investment in this state of the art Advanced Engineering and Construction Centre at Bedford College demonstrates our commitment to improving skills and training for our young people, which is central to boosting economic growth across the UK and building a country that works for everyone.

 “Local Growth Funding worth £2.5 million will ensure that students have the skills and training required to go onto higher engineering and degree level training, supporting local manufacturing and the wider economy for years to come.”

Ian Pryce CBE, CEO of The Bedford College Group which now encompasses Bedford College, Shuttleworth College in Bedfordshire and Tresham College in Northamptonshire, said: “Bedford College has a proud history of preparing young people for careers in engineering. As the industry has evolved so have we and this new Advanced Engineering Centre will provide training opportunities for tomorrow’s technologies for those undertaking apprenticeships to Higher Education courses. This will confirm our position as the No 1 provider of training in the region.”

Hilary Chipping, Chief Executive, SEMLEP said:  “Local businesses are demanding more highly-qualified engineers in relevant disciplines needed for the specialist engineering and manufacturing sectors we have in the area. The Buchanan Centre is in prime position to work closely with local employers to respond to their needs by giving students access to state-of-the-art equipment and training. SEMLEP is delighted to support the Bedford College Group with investment through our Local Growth Fund.“

The Buchanan project has cost £5.2 Million from generous donations from public and private organisations, as well as the college’s own funds. This includes £2.5m from SEMLEP’s Local Growth Fund.

The Connolly Foundation of Bedfordshire which supports training in the construction industry has funded a virtual reality suite allowing students to “walk around” within design concepts. The Connolly Foundation also generously supports apprentices via the college.

HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council England) gave a grant of £170K from the Catalyst Fund to develop a range of market-driven Higher Education (HE) engineering courses. This will expand the current Higher Education courses which include: Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Sustainable Construction and Building Services and Construction. 

The grant will enable the College to directly address the skills gap in the Engineering and Construction Industries by increasing its ability to design a Higher Education curriculum which delivers more Advanced Engineering and Construction courses at Level 4+ and adapt current models of delivery to suit employer and learner needs. Level 3 students will benefit from a progression guarantee to a Higher level programme.




1)         Professor Helen Atkinson cutting the ribbon.

2)         L-R at the plaque:

David Pridmore, Bedford College Academies Trust

Ian Pryce, CEO of The Bedford College Group

High Sheriff of Bedfordshire Julian Polhill

Judith Barker, Director Programmes and Governance, SEMLEP

Vice Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire Chris Sharwood-Smith MBE

Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson

Steve Lowe, Connolly Foundation


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