The last academic departments moved from Old College to the university’s purpose-built Penglais campus overlooking the town in 2014. The refurbished Hugh Owen Library is at Penglais, plus the National Library of Wales, one of the UK’s copyright libraries.
A serial winner in our University of the Year awards — for teaching quality in 2018 and 2019 and named Welsh University of the Year in 2020 — Aberystwyth continues to flourish against many of the key performance measures in our analysis. In 2021 it ranked third for student satisfaction with teaching quality and sixth for the overall experience, even after one of the toughest years that students and universities had known. In our analysis of the latest National Student Survey, published in summer 2022, it remains third for satisfaction with teaching quality and rises to joint second for satisfaction with the wider undergraduate experience.
Rated gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in 2016, Aberystwyth was found to have “outstanding levels of stretch” ensuring that all students were significantly challenged to achieve their full potential. Substantial investment in e-learning was another plus point, as was the integrated approach to Welsh-language teaching. Just under a third of existing students come from Wales and Welsh-medium teaching is flourishing.
The university’s new School of Veterinary Science has welcomed its second cohort of students taking a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) degree in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College. They spend the first two years of the five-year course in Aberystwyth before transferring to the RVC’s Hawkshead campus in Hertfordshire to complete their degree.It is the first veterinary school in Wales, and one of only 11 across the UK. Facilities include a European Union-funded veterinary hub containing high-specification laboratories and office space. The Centre of Excellence for Bovine Tuberculosis is based there.
The new veterinary science degree and new nursing degrees are credited with contributing to a small rise in applications, according to a snapshot of the application cycle at the end of March 2022. This consolidates a 9 per cent increase in applications in 2021, resulting in their highest level in eight years. However, the numbers seeking a place have yet to be restored to their peak in 2011, 40 per cent higher than in 2021.
From 2023 a degree in veterinary nursing will also join the curriculum. The Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus (AberInnovation), a £40.5 million facility providing world-leading facilities in food, biorefining and agric-tech, is based on the university’s Gogerddan campus. Here, collaborations are forged between academia and business.
Agriculture produced some of the best results for Aberystwyth in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021). Food science, geology, sports science, and Celtic studies were also prominent. King Charles III learnt Welsh at Aberystwyth in 1969. Overall, three-quarters of the university’s research was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent, the top two categories. Its performance represented an improvement since the previous REF in 2014 but it has fallen 18 places in our research quality index to 63= against sector-wide gains.
Efforts to improve social inclusion at Aberystwyth continue. Although its performance has sunk from 36th in 2021 to 50th, the university is seventh in England and Wales according to our new measure for the recruitment of white working-class male students, now the most underrepresented group in higher education. The university runs a contextual offers scheme that typically reduces offers by eight or 16 Ucas points. Those eligible include students from schools in the lower 40 per cent of A-level achievement, those who have spent time in care, or those whose school participates in the Pathway to Success programme in Wales.
Aberystwyth supports about half of its UK entrants with some form of financial aid. Scholarships worth £2,000 in the first year are available for students entering with excellent school results, and the university offers assistance for Welsh speakers and those who have left care or are estranged from their family.
Sports facilities are excellent, with 48 acres of pitches. A pool and saunarium is complemented by a sundeck — no, the rain is not nonstop, whatever people may say about Welsh weather. Outdoor sporting opportunities abound in the sea, rivers and mountains in this stunning part of the world. Unusually, the university offers stabling for students’ horses.
The Penglais and Gogerddan campuses are about a mile apart, with teaching facilities and residential accommodation within walking distance. All first-years are guaranteed one of more than 3,000 places ranging from the newly refurbished, Welsh-speaking Pantycelyn hall of residence to the modern blocks of Fferm Penglais and Pentre Jane Morgan. International students may find that accommodation is included in their tuition fees or may qualify for a discount of £2,000, depending on which halls they choose.
No one can dispute the attraction of Aber’s seaside setting and jaw-dropping sunsets — although it is a long journey from many parts of the UK. Once part of the Aberystwyth community, students are immensely loyal to their university.