Cold-spot scheme warms to success

February 27, 2004

Liverpool Hope University College is reaching out to communities that have traditionally shunned higher education through a campus-share project with local sixth-form colleges.

The project has been so successful that Liverpool Hope, which plans to apply for full university status within the year, is struggling to deal with demand for places at three new satellite campuses - Holy Cross College, Bury, St Mary's College, Blackburn, and St John Rigby, Wigan.

Outside interest is intense for two reasons. First, Liverpool Hope's success has been in three so-called cold spots, areas that have historically had very low higher education participation rates. Second, its model differs from the standard franchising arrangements set up between higher education institutions and general further education colleges.

Sir Howard Newby, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, believes the project could be a blueprint for others.

"This is an interesting model. There's a kind of trust already there in the local community. It is surprising just how local provision has to be to get into these so-called cold spots," he said.

Sean Gallagher, director of resources at Liverpool Hope, said: "It is a model you could see working in other cold spots, such as South Yorkshire or the Northwest. Sometimes you have to take higher education to where people are."

The sixth-form colleges host Liverpool Hope degrees, offering courses to 1,200 students. Lectures are delivered in the evenings: once a week for a six-year part-time course involving 18 hours' work a week, or twice a week for a three-year course at 36 hours a week.

Kirsty Bain, a student at Holy Cross, did her GCSEs then left full-time education. Now, a year away from graduation, she wants a career in teaching. She said: "I wouldn't have done anything if this course hadn't been right here. I was working full time but wanted a career. This fits my life."

Crucially, the teaching staff drive to the colleges from Hope, which can mean a 100-mile round trip in some cases.

Degrees can be taken entirely at the local college. There is no requirement for the student to visit the university regularly.

Staff offer academic and pastoral care for students in person or by phone.

Liverpool Hope plans to invest more in the sites and is bidding for £6.7 million to expand provision.

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