University Campus St Albans
A joint venture between the University of Hertfordshire and Oaklands College to provide flexible, part-time and employer-driven HE provision.
What is the collaboration about?
University Campus St Albans (UCSA) is a joint venture between the University of Hertfordshire and Oaklands College. UCSA students study a University of Hertfordshire honours part-time degree which is delivered at both Oaklands College and the University of Hertfordshire, and are offered in business, leadership and construction. Course are delivered by staff from both institutions, supported by external staff, and both campuses are used to meet the particular course need. All courses are delivered part-time, over evenings and weekends. Students are usually in employment, and most have been out of education for a long time; almost all are aged 25+, with the majority aged 30-55. Cohorts are small, with around 12 students per year on each course.
Through the relationships that Oaklands College has established with employers, UCSA has worked with employer groups in three core areas – nursing, construction and business – to identify future skills needs and ensure the courses delivered can meet these needs. Employer engagement is particularly strong on construction, with employers involved in designing the curriculum for the Construction Management degree and UCSA delivering the course with the Building Research Establishment. Construction group Jarvis have an employee currently on this course and are looking at how staff from other parts of the group could benefit from the business degrees that UCSA offer. Having UCSA as a single point of contact for employers streamlines the engagement process. Around 90% of businesses in Hertfordshire are SMEs.
UCSA have recently had their first degree apprenticeship in Chartered Management validated (approval pending at time of writing) and plan to offer this from October 2018. This is a fast-track two-year option targeted to existing managers who will be able to get exemption from the first two years by accrediting their prior experience. This is in response to the needs of employers, who wish to upskill existing staff with lots of experience but no formal qualifications that may not wish to commit to a four year course. Hertfordshire County Council are currently the largest employer linking in to the two-year course, and conversations are happening with a number of interested other businesses.
How did it come about?
The University of Hertfordshire have been part of a Hertfordshire Higher Education Consortium with the four FE colleges in the county for the past twenty years to develop progression pathways from FE to HE. More recently the university and Oaklands College set up UCSA as a joint venture, to provide more flexible education for people in the workplace. UCSA was established to be employer-facing and responsive, with provision that could not be fully met by either the university or the college independently. UCSA could address a need for part-time employer-driven provision and be an extra income stream for both partners.
The move into apprenticeships is new for UCSA and is a development of its part-time education offer. Due to its expertise in accrediting prior learning, the Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship was developed from the existing university four-year part-time course to be more flexible for employers and learners, and appeal to existing managers who wish to start at Level 5. To meet apprenticeship regulations, the university will be the lead provider on both courses and employers and their employees will be able to choose the most appropriate route.
What were the main drivers?
As well as providing an extra funding stream, through UCSA the university can provide higher level learning opportunities to learners who are not in the position to study for a full-time degree. There is also the benefit to local FE students who can access an alternative progression pathway to degree level qualifications that can be studies alongside their jobs.
UCSA also provides local employers with the opportunity to upskill and reskill their existing employees. This supports the work of the Local Enterprise Partnership to escalate and retain skills in the county, particularly at graduate level.
What are the wider benefits?
Employer-facing: UCSA can be flexible and responsive to changing employer demands, and provide a joined-up solutions for employers to save them having to deal with the college and university separately.
Alternative provision: In providing a separate space outside of either partner, alternative qualifications and programmes can be designed. Learners can gain a degree at a lower cost and on a flexible part-time basis, and potentially faster than by other routes due to the accreditation of prior learning process. This is particularly useful for people in employment.
Staff retention: Offering part-time degree level courses offers accessible staff development opportunities to help them retain their employees.
Genuine collaboration: UCSA as a joint venture represents an equal partnership between the college and the university.
Growing industry partnerships: Engaging with an increasing number of employers to offer bespoke courses strengthens the relationship between education and industry which has two-way benefits – all institutions and employers can share information and knowledge.
Tips for a successful collaboration
“there was such a well-established field here of four colleges and the university, there was a very busy educational sphere. So, being clear who your market is, and why you want to go into it, and doing a really good analysis of that market before you go into it, and thinking about how that sits within your wider collaborative provision locally” [UCSA]
“you’ve got to have a really top-level commitment to it and knowing what you want to get out of it” [UCSA]
I think the first thing is people. Actually, having people who believe in what you’re trying to do and then also the processes and, sort of, policies then that underpin making that work… it’s actually just meeting the right people, understanding their priorities, your priorities and how you can work together…Everybody wants to work together across the colleges and the university and is keen to make it work for the benefit of all parties. [HE]
UNIVERSITY CAMPUS ST ALBANS LIMITED of College Lane, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL10 9AB and whose registered number is 8338085.