Big expansion plans to take city by storm

Two-year degrees at heart of Gloucestershire goal to win 6,000 more students, writes Melanie Newman.

January 31, 2008

The University of Gloucestershire is planning to increase its student numbers by two thirds - from 9,000 to 15,000 - in the next four years.

In a strategic plan unveiled this week, the university confirmed that it would seek to boost numbers through more international collaborations, "fast-track" two-year degrees, more degrees co-funded by employers and the development of "all-ages learning provision".

It also announced plans to move into several new academic areas, including performing arts, drama, dance and music. And it proposes to relocate its arts, media and communications faculty from its historic base in Cheltenham to a planned new campus in the centre of Gloucester.

The strategic plan says that partnerships with other educational institutions, including overseas universities, will boost student numbers. Under its International Learning Partnership Programme, overseas students will study on two-year courses validated by the university, which will also offer a third-year "top-up" course to permit students to gain full undergraduate degrees.

Patricia Broadfoot, the vice-chancellor, said the university expected to have 1,000 students studying in this way through 20 partnerships within five years. "We've started from a zero base (in international recruitment), but it is developing very rapidly. We are concentrating on Asia but may move into Africa."

She also hopes to recruit an additional 1,000 students within two years to flexible courses suitable for all ages. "We already have All Life Learning, which is aimed at local mature students in traditional continuing education, and we are developing an exciting new programme with the Cheltenham Festival," Professor Broadfoot said.

The university is also part of a pilot project, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, to fund two-year degrees.

Some of the additional students will be accommodated on a new campus in Gloucester city centre, in an area that local authorities have earmarked for regeneration as a "cultural quarter".

The move to Gloucester has provoked anxieties in some Cheltenham residents who fear the university may be abandoning the city.

"I'd like to stress that we are not leaving Cheltenham," Professor Broadfoot said. "We have plans for Cheltenham as well, which will be announced in a month's time."

Cheltenham College of Art, one of the university's founding institutions, is more than a century old, but Professor Broadfoot listed a number of reasons for moving the arts faculty to Gloucester.

"There is a huge amount of cultural production in Gloucester; it's full of small businesses and people doing creative things. Cheltenham is more famous for its cultural consumption - the festivals - rather than for cutting-edge creativity."

She added: "There is a tradition of fine art in Cheltenham, but an awful lot of water has flown under the bridge in the past few years."

The Pittville campus in Cheltenham, which houses the art faculty, offers courses in journalism, graphics and pop music - and was originally based in Gloucester.

The university currently has a campus on the edge of Gloucester, but it has little impact on the city. "We want a presence in the middle of town, right next door to Gloucestershire College," Professor Broadfoot said. "It's an act of faith. We believe that Gloucester is a dynamic, enterprising city of the future."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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