PLANS to attract hundreds of extra students from the region and overseas to the University of Chester have been outlined.
A series of projects preparing to take off in the New Year will help bolster the university’s already growing reputation, both nationally and internationally.
Speaking exclusively to the Leader, vice chancellor professor Tim Wheeler, outlined a series of ambitious schemes planned for 2012, which include a range of renovation works, building projects, new courses and international conferences.
He said: “The university will be commencing work on the food science and technology innovation centre. It is hoped that work will commence in the spring and that facilities will be available early in 2013.”
He added: “If the university is successful in receiving planning permission for its proposed student residences, then it will be starting construction in the summer with delivery of the project in time for the start of the 2013 to 2014 academic year.”
The university was also planning to replicate last year’s £5million worth of renovations, with a focus on environmentally friendly projects.
However, prof Wheeler, who has been at the university since 1998, said only “slight growth” in student numbers was anticipated.
He said: “We are a very popular university with more than nine applications per place. Because of government controls on student numbers, the current economic climate and increased levels of tuition fees, numbers will be at the same level as last year for undergraduates, but we anticipate a very slight growth in part-time and postgraduate numbers.
“The university has seen modest growth in the number of overseas students studying with us, rising from three per cent to four per cent for full-time students, although we expect this to rise over the next four years to about six per cent.”
He added: “The university, in conjunction with the Mersey Deanery and local hospitals, will be extending its postgraduate medical courses in dentistry and surgery.
“The university will also be developing a suite of management and professional courses for delivery on campus, but also in-company with some large international organisations.”
Prof Wheeler said they were “fully committed” to working with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cheshire East, Warrington, Wirral and the wider business community to help drive economic growth in the region.
He said: “A recent study which has been undertaken and will be presented in the New Year will show that the university and its 15,714 students contribute more than £250 million to the economic activity of the sub-region, helping sustain 1,840 direct employees and more than 2,200 jobs locally.”
Prof Wheeler said highlights over the last year included: 12 graduation ceremonies with more than 3,500 students receiving their awards; the refurbishment of the Seaborne Library; conferring a visit from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams; having the “most successful” cohort of students in the university’s history and the highest student employability in the North West; the visit of Titan, an 8ft robot to help promote healthy living; the Faculty of Education receiving an ‘outstanding’ commendation from Ofsted for its teacher training; student Dean Paton’s Roman Fort project winning £50k in a national Barclays competition; 10 of their subjects being rated among the top courses nationally; £1 million in grants for research in archaeology; and Dr Terry Waite opening the Centre for Research into Psychological Trauma.