It is almost a decade since the former Southampton Institute of Higher Education was awarded university status and Southampton Solent University was born.
But for Van Gore, the current vice-chancellor, who helped see through the changes as deputy vice-chancellor, its establishment in 2005 was just the start.
Professor Gore, who took over leadership of the institution in 2007 and will step down later this year, said during his period in office he had witnessed the “making of the university”, with student applications nearly doubling and the development of innovative courses in niche areas that have grown in reputation.
He said the old Southampton Institute had gone through some difficult times in the 1990s, which left staff with a lack of self-belief and uncertainty about institutional identity. Application numbers were also static, so in 2006-07, the decision was made to offer new courses and move into new areas, focusing on the creative industries. It is these courses in the creative disciplines that have been the “engine room” for the growth in student applications, Professor Gore said.
“These [programmes] were new to the sector in some cases and that is when applications started to take off,” he said.
One thing the Southampton Institute did have was a reputation for employable graduates and Southampton Solent has worked to build on this throughout the development of its courses.
This has involved embedding what Professor Gore called “real-world learning” into course curricula. This gives students the opportunity to be assessed on practical elements of their courses.
Students on the sports science courses, for example, get trained and certified to do blood testing as part of the programmes. “It is integration of theory and practice,” Professor Gore explained. “Our claim would be that we are not better than X, Y or Z [university] but that what we are trying to do is be different, and that is a legitimate kind of difference in what should be a strong and diverse higher education system.”
The new £9,000 fees regime has affected applications to Southampton Solent. However, Professor Gore said that things were “settling down” and the latest figures predict that 2014 applications will have recovered to 2011 levels.
More fundamentally, though, the changes have not had an impact on the widening participation agenda that is core to the university’s mission. At least 96 per cent of Southampton Solent’s students are from state schools and 70 per cent self-report that they are from families with no prior experience of university education.
The university is now embarking on a £100 million estate development and has acquired three acres of land adjacent to the campus. The first £30 million building will go up in 2015 and will include a state-of-the-art teaching and learning block complete with a space-age “capsule” containing an 80-seat lecture space that will float in the atrium.
Professor Gore said he suspected that the capsule, which to him represents the innovative and daring nature of the university, would be “quietly removed” once he had left. He said: “I hope not, because for me, the building needs to reflect the identity of the university.”
Professor Gore will certainly leave having made his mark on the identity of Southampton Solent; as well as the more fundamental changes he steered through, he had a hand in adding the spark to its logo during its transition to a university and more recently picked up a CBE in the New Year Honours for services to higher education.
“I do hope that the university will continue to do things differently,” he said. “There is going to be so much change that the successful institutions are going to be the ones that can embrace change and understand that they need to keep innovating.”
98% of Southampton Solent students are from state schools
Note: 2011-12 figures
70% say they are the first in their family to enter higher education
Note: Internal Yourcourse survey 2013
Queen’s University Belfast
Scientists are to develop a new drug-testing method for horses and cattle. Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast will work on a test that detects and monitors the known biological effects of a banned substance, rather than the substance itself. Chris Elliott, director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s, said: “The criminal gangs that operate the global trade in illegal animal drugs have developed the means of avoiding detection by conventional testing methods and new ways to detect this illicit trade are urgently required.”
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Edwina Hart, the Welsh economy minister, has given the go-ahead for a new multimillion-pound campus near Swansea city centre. The new University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea campus aims to provide “modern education and research facilities and recreational opportunities for students” while also fostering closer links with the business community. Medwin Hughes, the institution’s vice-chancellor, said Swansea would become “a modern and vibrant European city” as a result of the development.
A professor in dentistry has been shortlisted for the St David Awards, which honour people doing exceptional work to improve the quality of life in Wales. Jonathan Shepherd of Cardiff University was nominated for establishing a multi-agency violence prevention group that coordinates the work of police, NHS emergency staff and charity Victim Support. This prototype partnership, now a legal requirement in Britain, has led the way in developing a new approach to identifying violence hotspots and reducing incidents of violence.
Chinese pop star Eason Chan has received an honorary degree from his alma mater in recognition of his extraordinary success in the music industry. Dubbed the “King of Asian Pop” by Time Out Hong Kong magazine, Chan, who left his architecture course at Kingston University in 1995 after winning first place in Hong Kong’s New Talent Singing Awards, returned to southwest London to accept the honour on 24 January.
University of St Andrews
Scotland’s oldest university is holding an exhibition that traces the history of graduation ceremonies. Entitled May they always Flourish, the presentation at the Museum of the University of St Andrews explores the ceremonial tradition by bringing together objects, paintings, costume and archival material associated with the event from the past six centuries.
Liverpool John Moores University
Scientists are creating a “lifelogging” device that can collect information from every gadget you own, creating a personal archive that stores everything from television viewing habits to photographs. Chelsea Dobbins, along with Madjid Merabti, Paul Fergus and David Llewellyn-Jones, from the Liverpool John Moores University School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, has led the design of software to create “human digital memories” with the aid of “pervasive mobile devices”.
Sheffield Hallam University
Motorcycle star Guy Martin has smashed a world record using a sled designed by a team of university sports engineers. Martin beat the record for fastest gravity-powered sled by more than 30kph, setting a new record of 134.368kph (83.49mph). The team from Sheffield Hallam, recommended to the production crew after its work with Winter Olympics gold medallist Amy Williams, travelled to the Pyrenees in Andorra for the filming of Channel 4’s Speed With Guy Martin.
University Campus Suffolk
Researchers are investigating whether technology developed for Formula 1 could help to tackle obesity. Telemetry technology, inspired by the equipment used to collect data about McLaren Mercedes F1 cars, has been adapted to monitor the activity levels of overweight people. It will be used in the Helping Health Change study, a collaboration between University Campus Suffolk, McLaren Applied Technologies and a local doctors’ surgery, to educate individuals about the relationship between food, energy levels and exercise.