“A great confirmation of the work we have been doing for the past 170 years.” That is how John Last, the first-ever vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts, described the day his institution officially became a university.
The Privy Council confirmed that the institution, formerly Norwich University College of the Arts, which was founded in 1845, had secured the university title in late 2012 after ministers relaxed rules that previously prevented institutions with fewer than 4,000 students from becoming universities.
“We were conscious that in other countries, specialist arts universities which are relatively small were quite well known and respected,” said Professor Last. “It was an anomaly that in England you needed to be very large or you couldn’t be a university. That wasn’t very helpful, and it didn’t reflect the quality of our work.”
According to the vice-chancellor, it was only his institution’s size that was preventing it from being recognised as a university. “We fulfilled the requirements of the research assessment exercise, we entered the REF [research excellence framework], we have very strong application rates and students do very well. The key things we are asked to do as universities we are already fulfilling.” These qualities were “a better set of things to concentrate on” than the size of an institution, or the number of courses it offers, he said.
One of the big pluses that Norwich can take from the university title is in the international marketplace. For international students, the university college title caused some confusion because of its lack of clarity, Professor Last said.
“It’s nice for staff and students to have the [university] designation and we are taking the opportunity to explain our new status to overseas students, who found the former name quite complicated and difficult to understand,” he explained.
Despite Professor Last’s assertion that size is not the most important thing, the university has set itself the target of more than doubling its student numbers, to about 4,000, investing £10 million in the process and upscaling from nine buildings to 11. The most recent building acquisition came earlier this month, when the university paid in excess of £900,000 to purchase the grade II listed Boardman House in Norwich city centre, which will be refurbished to accommodate the School of Architecture. The institution has also set itself a target of recruiting 10 per cent of its student body from outside the UK – something the prestige of being a university should assist.
“Having a mix of cultures, a mix of approaches to the arts, is very important to us,” Professor Last said. “We are about two-thirds of the way towards [the 10 per cent target]. It is about selectivity and appropriateness – we are anxious to make sure that it is the right students, rather than the number of students, which is the approach we take with UK students too.”
Norwich can afford to be somewhat selective about the students that it accepts. Last year, the institution saw a 17 per cent increase in the number of students applying for degree courses, and as a result it did not enter the clearing process. In the past two years, Professor Last said that the university had been “a little bit over” its student number cap.
“It’s a problem I am pleased to have,” he said, adding that he welcomed the planned abolition from 2015-16 of undergraduate quotas in England. However, in Norwich’s case he said that it would not simply mean that the university increased its numbers, as many of the institution’s programmes rely on access to specialist equipment and favour smaller class sizes.
“[We must] not become lured into creating a very large institution just because we could…so we will expand gradually, and with the intention more likely of introducing new subjects, rather than increasing the numbers on the courses we have,” he said.
Long road: the 167-year journey to university status
The Norwich School of Design is founded
Approved to offer degree-level provision
First BA honours degree courses are offered, validated by the Council for National Academic Awards
Great Yarmouth College of Art incorporated into the school
First MA courses introduced through an academic agreement with Anglia Polytechnic
Incorporated as a higher education institution, renamed Norwich School of Art and Design
First research degree student registered for PhD study
Granted the power to award degrees up to master’s level and renamed Norwich University College of the Arts
Granted university title by the Privy Council, becoming Norwich University of the Arts
Universities of Dundee, Strathclyde and Bristol
Adolescent obesity in girls is linked to poorer performance in school, researchers have discovered. A study carried out by the universities of Dundee, Strathclyde, Georgia and Bristol found that obese girls’ attainment was lower by around a grade in the core subjects of English, maths and science, even when mediating factors were taken into account. However, they found that the association was less clear cut in boys.
University of Leicester
Many middle-class working mothers give up their jobs because they are unwilling to behave like men, a paper claims. Shireen Kanji of the University of Leicester and BBC producer Emma Cahusac argue in the journal Gender, Work and Organization that mothers in professional jobs are still expected to stay late or arrive early even if they have negotiated reduced working hours. This is because a “presenteeist” working culture is still imposed by men, they say.
Bucks New University
A university in the South of England has launched a new course in event and festival sustainability management. Bucks New University developed the bachelor of science course in response to the growing demand for live events and festivals to consider environmental care and sustainability. Students will have the opportunity to get work experience at the Reading Festival and Notting Hill Carnival.
University of Surrey
A new test to detect prostate and bladder cancer could be available to doctors by 2015, thanks to a licensing deal signed by a university and a medical diagnostics manufacturer. The new test, developed by researchers at the University of Surrey, works by detecting a protein produced by cancer cells in a patient’s urine. The university will supply key materials to the company Randox, which will produce and market the test.
People can be encouraged to behave in a more healthy way if given small financial incentives, according to an analysis of 16 previous pieces of research on the subject. A team from Newcastle University found that incentives as small as £3 could make people up to 50 per cent more likely to change their behaviour towards activities such as smoking, vaccinations or exercise.
University of York
The UK’s first dedicated laboratory building for atmospheric chemistry research has been officially opened. The University of York’s Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories will allow researchers to investigate air quality, ozone depletion and climate change in a more integrated way. The centre will bring the university’s researchers together alongside external staff such as visitors from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, based at the University of Leeds.
University of London
Thriller writer Jack Higgins has been awarded an honorary doctorate in literature to recognise his 70-year career as an author. The Eagle has Landed scribe, 84, whose real name is Harry Patterson, was presented with the University of London award by the Princess Royal at the Barbican Centre graduation ceremony on 5 March, which was attended by more than 3,000 people.
Goldsmiths, University of London
People from the East Sussex seaside town of Hastings are the most musical in the UK, a new study claims. Those from the West Country and Wales were also likely to be highly musical despite their lower income levels, according to the BBC Lab UK survey of about 95,000 people, which was analysed by psychologists at Goldsmiths, University of London.