Three colleges' approaches to higher education work

四月 16, 1999

Newcastle College

One of the country's biggest further education providers of higher education courses, Newcastle's success means it might have to consider new methods of delivery if growth is to continue.

Although the college denies it is close to saturation point, its 1,600 higher education students - which could rise to 2,000 next year - and 30,000-plus further education students require a lot of space. Continuing success at attracting students could mean a move away from traditional classroom-based education where appropriate.

Deputy chief executive Linda Moore said: "We only have so many buildings and if we could not find other methods of delivery then we could reach saturation point. But we are not at that point yet and it is unlikely we will reach it. It is about examining ways to deliver higher and further education provision in non-traditional ways."

The college offers 28 full-time HNDs and 16 part-time HNCs across a wide range of subjects. It also has one full-time degree, a bachelor of music and a part-time degree in art and design, franchised from Sunderland University. There is a part-time certificate of education and full-time postgraduate certificate of education in further education. A full-time bachelor of education is offered in conjunction with New College, Durham. It also offers the preliminary and first years of degrees in science, sports and health studies in conjunction with Sunderland.

Its HEFCE grant for next year is nearly Pounds 4 million, second only to Bradford and Ilkley Community College in the further education sector and almost a quarter of the grant received by some universities.

This is good news for students, who can progress from basic skills to sub-degree and degree level at the college or its partner universities of Newcastle, Northumbria or Sunderland.

City of Bristol College

The result of a merger between Brunel and South Bristol colleges three years ago, City of Bristol plans to increase the number of higher education students by more than 70 per cent over the next three years.

It is planning for around 330 students on higher education courses by 2002, up from the present 190. Most will be at sub-degree, HNC and HND levels, although there will be significant numbers in the first year of degree courses provided by the Bath Spa University College.

Despite the size of the expansion, largely dependent on securing extra HEFCE-funded places, the college does not want to drift away from its core mission - further education.

Deputy principal Prue Taylour said: "We are not going all-out for growth in higher education, but where we feel it fits into our existing portfolio and there is student demand then we will go for it."

The existing higher education provision bears this out. The HNDs and HNCs gain students entry into nearby universities, often on to the final year of a degree.

"Further education colleges provide higher education for those with no HE background," said Prue Taylour. "We offer a level of support they will not get at universities. They can progress here to degree level."

Higher education expansion is likely to take place in popular areas such as multimedia and computer graphics. There may also be expansion in business studies at diploma level.

Tower Hamlets College

Tower Hamlets College has put its efforts into widening participation by concentrating on further education and university links rather than running sub-degree courses.

Only 60 out of its 6,000 students are studying qualifications equivalent to NVQ level four, including degrees below masters and sub-degrees. Most of the 60 students are studying HNCs and HNDs.

Serving one of the UK's most deprived communities, the college has around 200 students on university access courses. It works closely with the University of London's Queen Mary and Westfield College, London Guildhall University and the University of East London to find undergraduate places for those who complete access courses. There are also some 250 students taking A levels with a view to entering higher education.

Vice-principal Judith Hinman said the geography of London and its concentration of universities means "in-house" higher education provision is not top of the college's priorities.

"We have very good progression rates with local universities," said Ms Hinman. "We put our energies into our 12 higher education entry schemes."

Tower Hamlets's mission is to remove barriers to education and raise achievement. But when 45 per cent of its students are at NVQ entry and foundation levels, it means further rather than higher education must be the priority. A large number are adults studying part-time to learn English as a second language.

"Our focus is on growing our own students. We take them at entry and foundation levels and work hard to get them to level three (A level equivalent), from where they can go on to higher education," Ms Hinman said.

The focus will stay on further education, but the college is not ruling out higher education expansion. New HNDs in specialist areas such as media studies and creative computing are being developed. There is also discussion with local universities of the possibility of some degree work, funded by the universities.

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