The University of St Mark & St John has been awarded nearly £3 million of funding to support its plans to develop and diversify.
It was announced this week that The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has granted £2.8 million from its Catalyst Fund to support the University’s strategic plan ‘Challenging Horizons’, which includes plans to double in size by 2024.
Professor Cara Aitchison, Vice-Chancellor of the University said: “We’re delighted that HEFCE has recognised the value in supporting this institution because, despite being one of the smaller Universities in the country, we are ranked as top in the UK for social mobility: securing graduate level jobs for students from poorer backgrounds – which was a key factor in HEFCE’s support.
“Because the University of St Mark & St John has the highest employability rate of the four universities in Devon and Cornwall we believe our 'values-based' ethos and small class sizes within a stunning green campus on the edge of Dartmoor, are a winning formula, and we will build on those strengths and continue to supply high quality graduates to the region.”
Applications to the Catalyst Fund go through a rigorous scrutiny process and the University of St Mark & St John’s plans to ensure that its course provision is accessible, distinctive and relevant to the local and regional economy have been endorsed by HEFCE.
Yvonne Hawkins, Director for Institutions (Universities and Colleges), HEFCE, said: “HEFCE's funding will support the University as it implements its new strategic plan to diversify provision, with a focus on delivery to meet the needs of students, employers and the local and regional economy.”
Partnerships with the health sector will deliver projects in the areas of human biosciences, sport and exercise sciences. Also on the agenda are sport medicine, regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, ageing, dementia and rehabilitation in tandem with sport and exercise imaging.
There will be developments to the range of health clinics for clinical interventions. Currently these public clinics include the Macmillan cancer clinics, a dementia clinic, back pain clinics, speech and language therapy clinics, sports therapy rehabilitation and strength and conditioning clinics.
New research areas and courses will focus on Human Biosciences, Sport Medicine, Exercise Physiology, Psychology, Sociology, Business and Management, Accounting, Computing and Coding, Tourism and Modern Foreign Languages. New subject areas will include STEM provision in line with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership plan (HotSW LEP).
Chris Garcia, Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We are delighted that the university has been successful in securing this funding; growth and skills are key priorities for the HotSW LEP, and we are keen to support our partners in delivering programmes that enable young people to stay in the area and pursue high-value careers. We support the diversification into professionally oriented programmes, and branching into the commercial maritime sector is of particular importance to us as an LEP, and this is one of the smart specialisations within Plymouth and the Peninsula City Deal.”
Director of Operations at Plymouth Science Park, Christian Jenkins, said: “I believe that this will significantly enhance the academic opportunities for students as well as providing a strong platform for growth. It will improve employment opportunities for graduates and give the university scope to develop facilities supporting innovation and entrepreneurship which is recognised as a key element of the student journey.”
Plymouth City Council Chief Executive, Tracey Lee, said: “We welcome the plans to grow the student community across its specialist subject areas which will support our growth plans to increase the number of highly skilled workers and the supply of graduates for employers.”
The funding will be used for a number of initiatives to support a business plan to meet student and local economic priorities in line with the Local Enterprise Partnership agenda. The University will work alongside Derriford Hospital and Plymouth Science Park to bring Plymouth City Council’s ambitions for a ‘Knowledge Hub’ for the city to life.
University bosses are also in talks with a communications company to develop a 'Smart Campus' as part of a drive to put digital innovation at the centre of the student experience. This initiative is being led by Dr Liz Smith, recently appointed to take forward learning, teaching and the student experience across the University by developing themes of digital, global and professional education to support all students.
The University is already well-known as England's oldest teacher training college and for its contribution to sport and international athletes. Its growing work in creative arts, enterprise, language and culture will also be boosted by the funds, through investment in exhibition and performances spaces on the Derriford campus.
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