University Centre Peterborough has an extra 200 places available this year, and hopes that local students will want to take up some of those. Executive Director Mark Mabey talks to Andy Gall from the BBC.
AG: So now there’s a warning today that two hundred thousand students could miss out on university places. The financial climate and a record eleven per cent rise in applications has been to blame, as Andrea Robertson from UCAS explained earlier. (TAPE)
AR: I think it’s a combination of factors to be honest. We have seen a definite increase in applicants over the age of twenty one. So that indicates that people perhaps are rethinking their career prospects and thinking of moving perhaps onto a different career. And of course if you look back a couple of years the attainment rate at GCSE a couple of years ago was extremely high. So understandably that means that people are now moving into age eighteen with very good GCSEs and thinking about going to university.
AG: So the year old University Centre Peterborough hopes to welcome five hundred and fifty students this year, and Mark Mabey is their Executive Director, and joins us on the line. Good morning Mark.
MM: Morning Andy.
AG: Good to talk to you. So how many places have you got available then?
MM: We were really lucky this year Andy that we were able to secure an additional two hundred numbers. We’re full up to our expected numbers, but currently we’ve got two hundred vacancies. So I guess we’re really lucky and we’re hoping that Peterborough students particularly will be able to benefit from that.
AG: Because you’re of course in your early formation of your history. You’ve only been going for a year.
MM: Yes, very much so. And clearly there is a want to grow higher education within Peterborough. And the Government has seen that as an area, and that’s why we’ve got these additional numbers. So it’s great news.
AG: Do you have a broad and wige ranging subject matter that people can study?
MM: Yes, very broad Andy. In fact your music was really good, (Note: mystery and suspense music played earlier) because we’ve just launched a Degree in Crime and Investigative Studies.
AG: Good. Well I wanted to be a forensic scientist. So that’s all good, that is. Lots of iron filings as far as I’m aware.
MM: Yes. It’s a mixture of criminology and science. That’s quite exciting. We’ve got Sports Coaching, a big programme in Media and Journalism. So if you’re hard up Andy you can perhaps come along to that as well.
AG: Some people do say perhaps I should have gone and done some schooling in that before I found myself sitting here.
AG: Are you finding that you’re having to be .. you’re having to read the marketplace, the employment market, and figure out what it is that employers want, and then try and make sure that you entice children to do the right things? Because the last thing that kids want to do is to go and invest in what is an incredibly expensive process of going to university, and finding that what they’ve studied has become obsolete almost.
MM: Yes. I think that’s absolutely crucial. i think that it’s going to be even more important, because if currently there’s obviously a cap on fees that’s three thousand two hundred pounds, if the cap in October comes off of fees, and they go up to six, seven eight thousand pounds a year, students are going to be investing a lot. So I think employability is absolutely key. So certainly all the new programmes that we’ve been putting on in areas like Computing, as I say Sports, Business Management, and Engineering, particularly in Peterborough we’ve got some big programmes in Engineering, are particularly tailored to the needs of our local companies like Perkins.
AG: And also, when I was at university there was a lot of talk about perhaps reducing the whole timespan of the university degree, because we did it over three years. And it seems in future generations we might look back and think it’s rather decadent to take three years over a degree. Do you think there’s an argument for basically squeezing it into a smaller timescale?
MM: Yes I do. If you look at the summer periods, you’ve got universities that really don’t have students in them for six to eight weeks. And you could run a two-year programme over three or four terms. And certainly we’ve got these new Foundation Degrees, which are two year degrees. But I think there will be moves over the next year for us to look at offering degrees over a two year period.
AG: And with you being a young university, how do you market yourself around the world? Because I know that other more established universities certainly go out to the Far East and all over the place, to recruit students.
MM: As you say we are new. I’ve only been here for eight weeks, and I’ve been very keen that we should be a local university very much for Peterborough and the surrounding area. I think there’s some great potential to encourage international students to come to Peterborough, and I think that if we can link them up with companies like Perkins etcetera, they can do some work experience while they’re studying their degree. I think that would be a big pull for students to come internationally. We’ll start that next year.
AG: And it can create a really positive environment around a city as well, can’t it, when you have an influx of people from around the world doing that?
MM: Yes, I think it can. I think just having an undergraduate population of five hundred and fifty students within Peterborough’s going to make a difference. But as you rightly say bringing that international mix. and I think we have to be very targeted as to where we go to, but that international mix as well, I think would be really good for the city …
AG: Mark, thank you very much for talking to us. take care. That’s Mark Mabey, who’s the Executive Director of University Centre Peterborough.
Interview broadcast at 08:12 on Thursday 19th August 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.