Hull plans Moors learning centre

August 4, 1995

Now Hull University is set to tackle one of the few remaining higher education wildernesses in the United Kingdom with the development of a University of the Moors for north Yorkshire.

Although the isolation of the idyllic landscape of the North Yorkshire moors is one of the reasons so many tourists still make their annual pilgrimage there, for its dispersed rural population the moors can obscure acute socio-economic hardship exacerbated by extremely limited opportunities for post-compulsory education.

The concept draws on the success of the University of the Valleys in Wales, a university set up in 1993 by the University of Wales to train redundant miners.

"The University of the Valleys established the notion that a university doesn't have to be a concrete entity. It can be an idea with, of course, some physical presence," Daniel Vulliamy of Hull's centre for continuing education explains.

The University of the Moors will consist of multiple satellite sites in socially and educationally disadvantaged areas. Already a pilot project in Whitby has created an encouraging demand.

Whitby is a small and isolated town with a population of about 13,500 with a further 12,000 in a hinterland of 200 square miles. It has the worst unemployment record in North Yorkshire at about 18 per cent.

In 1993 the University of Hull established a Whitby outpost at the Seamen's Mission. The church converted the top floor to provide teaching rooms, a small laboratory, office and kitchen.

The university provided teaching aids, audiovisual equipment, computers and laboratory benches. Now accredited and non-accredited courses are offered there as well as liberal adult education programmes, lecture series, day schools and support for a multi-disciplinary research group.

Whitby has suffered over recent years as has most of North Yorkshire from the loss of heavy industry in Teesside and the scaling down of RAF Fylingdales as part of the so-called peace dividend.

The decline of the commercial port of Whitby and problems in the fishing industry have also taken their toll. But aside from the Whitby "outpost" there is no higher education within the project area. Even Open University students must travel to Middlesborough, Scarborough or York.

The University of the Moors will aim to attract a new, younger generation of adult students. "We want to reach those people who believe they have reached a plateau, who want a change of direction in their lives and careers but who do not want a strictly vocational course at this stage."

Subjects to be developed initially will fall within traditional academic categories and while the open-learning groups will be provided with text-based learning packs, tutors will visit regularly to gauge progress, to assess, advise and to guide.

Progression on to higher levels of study at Hull University will also be encouraged.

Support of Pounds 400,000 over four years from the Higher Education Funding Council for England will assist with the development of new learning packages and the cost of four new sites, potentially in Malton, Pickering, Helmsley and Rosedale. At the end of the four years it is hoped that 3,000 students will be on board.

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