The University of Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire College and South Gloucestershire and Stroud College are celebrating the first anniversary of a strategic alliance for higher education in Gloucestershire and the West of England. Launched in February 2012, the partners have signed a ten year Memorandum of Understanding to formalise their collaboration.

By working together to develop stronger links between further and higher education, the initiative aims to raise the quality, range and accessibility of higher education in the county and beyond. New courses, easier progression through the levels of further and higher education, flexibility and accessibility are at the heart of the partnership, and the alliance is looking forward to an exciting future which will change the face of higher education in the region.

The collaboration will see a range of new courses available to students in Gloucestershire. New Higher Education (HE) courses available at Gloucestershire College from September 2013 include Foundation Degrees in Uniformed Public Services to Health and Complementary Therapies. New HE courses available at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College from September 2013 include two year Fast Track degrees in Sports Coaching and Fine Art as well as a range of Foundation Degrees. (Please see briefing note below for more detail.)

Stephen Marston, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, said: “We are proud to be the University of, and for, Gloucestershire, serving all the communities who live and work here. We can do that better by working with our partner Colleges. This is a long term commitment. We have made a good start, agreeing to collaborate in providing new courses from Autumn this year, and working together on student recruitment. And over the years to come, we have a shared objective to keep developing, through our alliance, a wider range of courses, offered in more locations, and available to more people.”

Kevin Hamblin, Principal of South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, said: “The HE offer is changing nationally, with some school and college leavers looking for a cost-effective college-based degree programme. From September, SGS will be offering some University of Gloucestershire degrees, of two years’ duration rather than three, at a fee level lower than most universities, in the specialist areas of Art, Media, Performing Arts, Sport and Integrated Wildlife and Conservation. This initiative is about providing students at the University of Gloucestershire with a choice of location, academic environment, duration of study and fee level without compromising on the academic rigour of a university-based programme.”

Greg Smith, Principal of Gloucestershire College added: “The partnership between the two major Gloucestershire further education colleges and the University of Gloucestershire is of huge significance to the future success of the Gloucestershire economy. This partnership provides the opportunity to develop the seamless provision of further and higher education throughout Gloucestershire which will meet the needs of both individuals and businesses. Our new Foundation Degrees in Uniformed Public Services and Health and Complementary Therapies are just two examples of new HE options that will be available to collectively meet the skills needs of our county.”

(left to right) Kevin Hamblin, Principal of South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, Stephen Marston, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, and Greg Smith, Principal of Gloucestershire College. DSC 

The University of Gloucestershire is based on three campuses at the Park, Francis Close Hall and Oxstalls. Offering over 100 undergraduate courses, a diverse range of postgraduate and research degrees and professional courses, the University has nearly 10,000 students and 1,000 staff.
The University celebrated 10 years of university status in 2011 and invested £5.3 million into refurbished facilities at its campuses in Cheltenham and Gloucester. Find out more at www.glos.ac.uk
South Gloucestershire and Stroud College (SGS) has been formed as a result of the merger between Stroud College, Gloucestershire and Filton College, South Gloucestershire. This partnership with the University of Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire College reflects the benefits of the larger college serving the needs of over 5000 full-time learners and 10,000 part-time learners within the Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire and Bristol regions. Find out more at http://www.sgscol.ac.uk/

Gloucestershire College is a successful college of further and higher education in Gloucestershire with three main campuses in Cheltenham, Gloucester and the Forest of Dean. The college offers a wide range of education and training programmes, including A-Levels and GCSEs, apprenticeships, vocational qualifications, work-based learning, basic skills courses, higher education, short courses for business, part-time day and evening courses and English for overseas students. Gloucestershire College welcomes over 5,000 full-time students and over 10,000 part-time students each year, and employs 1350 members of staff across all sites. Find out more at www.gloscol.ac.uk

What happens now?

The partners are signing a ten year Memorandum of Understanding which commits the organisations to working together on a range of activities.

What key points does this include?
Commitment to work together to form a joint higher education strategy, making higher education more accessible and better integrated throughout Gloucestershire and the West of England. The alliance will increase opportunities for local people who wish to access higher education by offering degree level study at a range of sites, reducing the travel burden. It will also offer jointly developed programmes and clear progression routes from further education to higher education.

Why did the University and the two colleges decide to develop this partnership?

2012 was an opportune time to pursue a stronger strategic partnership for the following reasons:

BIS published a policy document, ‘New Challenges, New Chances’, in December 2011, which encouraged closer links between further and higher education For example, in the section entitled Opening Up Higher Vocational Education, specific commitments were given to a clearer policy on ‘non-prescribed higher education; the encouragement of credit accumulation and transfer arrangements between further and higher education; the encouragement of strategic alliances between universities, further education colleges and others.’

Stronger links between further education (FE) and higher education (HE) and across the delivery of HE, were welcome to many stakeholders in the county of Gloucestershire and beyond. The boundaries between FE and HE have little meaning for many businesses and other organisations, who would prefer a seamless approach.

Skills are recognised to be an essential component of economic development in Gloucestershire and beyond. The Local Enterprise Partnerships, and other business interests, are looking for a more coherent service of education, training and business support across FE and HE.

The introduction of the new HE fees regime in Autumn 2012 made it more important for all HE providers in the county to work together in raising awareness of HE opportunities and the benefits that HE brings, in providing good progression routes through the vocational as well as the academic pathways, and in raising participation in disadvantaged communities in Gloucestershire. By working in partnership we can offset the potential damage of the increased HE fees to widening participation in HE

The formation of the South Gloucestershire and Stroud College represented a significant reconfiguration of FE provision within Gloucestershire and the West of England. The former Royal Forest of Dean College has already merged with Gloucestershire College. These reorganisations provide an opportunity for us all to rethink how we work together to deliver a better service.

What does the Strategic Alliance hope to achieve?

The partners will be signing a ten year Memorandum of Understanding, which represents a very significant commitment by the three organisations to each other to working together in a range of areas. The partnership aims to:

• Secure better integrated provision of HE for Gloucestershire and surrounds;
• Provide better opportunities for everyone in Gloucestershire and the West of England with the ability to benefit from HE to gain access to provision which is accessible, appropriate and affordable for them;
• Work together to ensure flexible, efficient and innovative delivery of education, training and business support, within a unified, rigorous quality assurance framework which guarantees high standards;
• Offer a variety of forms of HE, with more flexibility to progress from college to university at different points and accessible in different locations in Gloucestershire and the West of England;
• Provide an effective Advice and Guidance Service to enable learners to make informed choices of study;
• Conduct joint marketing, for example there will be joint HE Open Events.

What are the benefits for students?

• Jointly developed and delivered programmes eg Post Compulsory Education & Training course for teachers in Further Education (PCET FE) launched in January of this year;
• Clearly articulated progression routes from Levels 3-6 (where Level 3 is A-Level or equivalent and Level 6 is final year undergraduate) and Level 7 (Master’s) in some cases. For example, progression routes are now signposted in the College prospectuses and will be in the new University prospectus for 2014;
o For example,a learner studying a Level 3 BTEC Diploma in Sport at SGS has a clearly signposted route all the way to Level 7;
o A student living in Bristol could study a degree in Sports Coaching at SGS’s WISE campus from September 2013;
o Even some Master’s level provision will be available at SGS, so a student could stay at SGS all the way from Levels 3-7;
o From September 2013, a student at GC taking a BTEC Diploma in Beauty Therapy will be able to stay at the College to study for a Foundation Degree in Health and Complimentary Therapies and top up to a BA at the University.
Flexibility
o Fast track degrees will be available in Sport and Art at SGS, enabling students to obtain their bachelor’s degree in two years. It will also be possible to obtain a BSc and MSc in three years at SGS.
Accessibility
o University of Gloucestershire degrees are now available at a number of sites in Gloucestershire and the West of England;
o This means learners can study degrees with far less travel.

Direct help from UoG for students from GC and SGS

o Special bursary packages aimed at students from the Colleges.
o Priority access to all guidance and recruitment activities, events and talks providing information and guidance relating to HE.
o Free places on summer residential reserved for students from the Colleges (some conditions apply).
o Exclusive access to the Gloucestershire mentoring scheme as part of UoG’s Compact programme.
o Pre enrolment activity to aide transition from College to the University.

What are the benefits for business?
o We are jointly considering how best to provide a better match between HE provision and the needs of employers in Gloucestershire and the West of England with a view to rolling out new provision by September 2015;
• Working together means that we can consider developing HE in areas that would not be feasible if we worked alone;
• Gloucestershire College already offer Engineering at Level 4-5 (HNC/D);
• The university offers Engineering at Doctoral level (DEng);
• By sharing facilities and other resources it will be possible to extend the range of courses currently on offer.

What are the benefits for staff?
o Up to 75% staff development discounts for staff within the partnership;
o Raising the qualifications of staff is positive for the organisations themselves, learners and the wider local economy.

HE courses available at Gloucestershire College from September 2013:
Course title Award Validating institution
Aerospace Computer Systems FdSc University of the West of England
Early Years* FdA University of Gloucestershire
Health Care Practice (Nursing) FdSc University of Gloucestershire
Psychology BSc (L4-5) University of Worcester
Therapeutic Counselling FdA University of Gloucestershire
Uniformed Public Services* FdA University of Gloucestershire
Health & Complementary Therapies* FdA University of Gloucestershire
Salon Management* FdA University of Gloucestershire
Business HND Edexcel
Creative Practices HND Edexcel
Electronic Engineering HND Edexcel
Mechanical Engineering HND Edexcel
Public Service Management HND Edexcel
Postgraduate Certificate in Post-Compulsory Education and Training University Diploma/Postgraduate Certificate University of Gloucestershire
*Subject to validation

HE courses available at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College from September 13:
Course title Award Validating institution
Sports Coaching Msc University of Gloucestershire
Sports Coaching BSc Two year Fast Track University of Gloucestershire
Sport Fitness & Physical Activity* BSc Two year Fast Track University of Gloucestershire
Sports Strength & Conditioning BSc Two year Fast Track University of Gloucestershire
Fine Art (from 2014)* BA Two year Fast Track University of Gloucestershire
Fine Art (from 2014)* FdA University of Gloucestershire
Graphics (from 2014)* FdA University of Gloucestershire
Photography (from 2014) FdA University of Gloucestershire
Early Years FdA University of the West of England
Education & Learning FdA University of Gloucestershire
Health Wellbeing & Lifestyle FdA University of the West of England
Integrated Wildlife Conservation FdSc University of the West of England
Musical Theatre* FdA University of Gloucestershire
Theatre & Contemporary Performance* FdA University of Gloucestershire
Business HND Edexcel
Postgraduate Certificate in Post-Compulsory Education and Training
University Diploma/Postgraduate Certificate University of Gloucestershire
*Subject to validation

Are the three organisations merging?

No, despite this partnership, each institution will remain separate and sustain their own programmes of activity. There is no intention to form a single, merged higher education provider.

What about the other providers of higher education in Gloucestershire?

The three institutions recognise that there are a range of other providers of higher education serving Gloucestershire and the surrounding area. Good relations already exist with those other providers, and will be maintained. The strategic partnership between the University and the two colleges is designed to allow them to work together to develop a range of higher education programmes, progression opportunities and business support services that will better meet the needs of Gloucestershire and the West of England. It does not preclude continuing, constructive relations and partnerships with other providers of FE and HE.

Source: University of Gloucestershire