At booming De Montfort 'we offer something for everyone'

May 8, 1998

Tony Tysome and Harriet Swain go in search of the Midlands, a region that is busy bridging an east-west divide, increasing participation rates and developing links

De Montfort is not an easy place to pin down. For one thing, it is spread over four vastly different centres - Leicester, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Lincoln - made up of ten campuses, each with its own specialisms, writes Harriet Swain.

For another, it is always on the move, developing programmes for brewers in South Africa, creating a course for Cuban finance managers and taking over Bristol University's legal practice course to add to its portfolio of such courses in Birmingham and Cambridge.

Director of marketing Marianne Harris-Bridge says it is always a problem telling potential students what the experience will be like, because it will be different depending on where they study.

If they go to Leicester, where the university began, they will live in a multicultural city with lots of shops and an active arts centre. If they study at Bedford, they will be in a county town. At Lincoln, which concentrates on land-based studies and conservation, they will be in the middle of the country. And Milton Keynes, which offers computing, economics, land management and urban studies, is the archetypal new town.

"We offer something for everyone," Ms Harris-Bridge says. Not everyone sees this as a good thing. Critics suggest that the university spreads itself too thin and they are sniffy about its empire-building tendencies.

Michael Brown, pro vice-chancellor at the university, admits it is hard to find a single label describing what De Montfort does. The only theme drawing the university together, he says, is the "preparation for life" slogan developed by an advertising agency.

"Each faculty has a plan and its main functions," he says. "But if something comes up that looks interesting and we can afford to take it on, we will have a go at it." But he says, "We do not just grab everything," He claims to have recently turned down ten institutions seeking a merger.

The university prides itself on being a player in the region, which provides about 40 per cent of its students, but it does not see itself or its competition limited geographically. The university's expansionist policy developed from its need to make ends meet, and it has no plans to stop.

When it became incorporated in 1989, it inherited Pounds 6 million of debt, which it turned around within two years through the business ethos introduced by vice-chancellor Kenneth Barker and a new board of governors combined with a series of building acquisitions. It has already hit its target of 30,000 students by 2000, set at the time.

Soon after incorporation, the World Bank identified De Montfort as the fastest growing university in western Europe.

Its latest focus, also related to the search for cash, is research. Last year it earned nearly Pounds 10 million via the research assessment exercise, research councils, the European Union and research contracts. Its latest slogan is: "research underpins everything we do".

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Lecturer in Business and Management DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY
Director of the Roslin Institute THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Lecturer in Economics DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY
International Director UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (8 September 2016)

Some lecturers will rightly encourage forms of student interaction that are impossible for those covering their faces, Eric Heinze argues

Handwritten essay on table

Universities must pay more attention to the difficulties faced by students, says Daniel Dennehy

University of Oxford students walking on campus

University of Oxford snatches top spot from Caltech in this year’s World University Rankings as Asia’s rise continues

Theresa May entering 10 Downing Street, London

The prospect of new grammar schools on the horizon raises big questions for HE, writes Nick Hillman

Nosey man outside window

Head of UK admissions service Mary Curnock Cook addresses concerns that universities might ‘not hear a word’ from applicants