Wolverhampton: 'IT is vocationally oriented and turns out people who can do something'

June 4, 2004

Oxford and Wolverhampton represent opposite ends of the league tables. Claire Sanders and Tony Tysome visit them in search of common ground

* Edd Scott  is happy that he chose Wolverhampton University to study for a BSc in computer-aided product design.

He considers the standard of teaching to be very good, and he describes the facilities as incredible. He said: "We have Cad labs that are very comfortable to work in and are open from early in the morning until late at night. They are facilities you would otherwise find only in industry."

Mr Scott, who is based at the university's Telford campus, some 50 minutes by inter-campus bus from Wolverhampton, admits to being unimpressed by the social facilities.

He said: "We have a Costa Coffee and that's about it. In some respects we miss out, but I am pleased to be where I am. Our rooms in halls are fantastic, and we only pay about £47 a week for them."

* Kathy Davies , an environmental science PhD student, was relieved to receive full support from the university when she asked to resume her degree on a part-time basis after a year working in Africa.

She said: "It was very easy to do - I just asked for a year's deferment and got it. To be able to come back and continue on a part-time basis was vital because of my family responsibilities."

The university's response was typical of the flexibility it has provided since she entered as an undergraduate from an access course nine years ago.

She said: "I had decided I wanted to go into science even though I had no science background. Wolverhampton said as long as I got the access certificate, that was not an issue. It was blood, sweat and tears for a while. But I got very good support, and in the end I was successful."

Ms Davies, 51, said facilities at the university had improved significantly since then. The library and computer facilities were particularly good, she said, but social facilities for postgraduates were just beginning to develop. There is no postgraduate common room, and the university's postgraduate society has been running only for two years.

But Ms Davies said she felt more at home at Wolverhampton than she would at a traditional university.

* Ghislaine Povey , a lecturer in tourism and hospitality, joined Wolverhampton when it acquired university status in 1992.

She said: "It is an exciting and constantly changing environment. It has been a period when we have taken time to find our feet as a university. We have had a lot to prove to ourselves and the rest of the world."

The university did this largely by playing to its strengths, which lie in its close links with industry, she said.

"One of the reasons I came here was because it is vocationally orientated and turns out people who can do something, whereas I think that is often not the case in more elite universities," she said.

Wolverhampton's downsides, she said, included a sometimes-acute shortage of space for meetings and student counselling; the absence of a creche and an "unhelpful" maternity policy "drawn up by middle-aged men"; and few opportunities for research that is not funded by industry.

On the last, she said: "There is part of me that would not want to have to worry about that and just do research that I am interested in. But in reality I think we are all aware that we have to subsidise teaching and the running of the university."

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