Originally founded as a School of Science and Art in 1891, BNU gained university status in 2007. The main campus is in High Wycombe, where £100 million has been invested over the past decade and a Gateway Building is a focal point in the town centre. There is a second base in Uxbridge, northwest London, and a third — the newest — in Aylesbury, hosting nursing and other healthcare courses.
BNU, which has added about 60 new courses over the past five years, will launch a new curriculum for September 2023 after a review of all full-time undergraduate courses. New programmes in paramedic science and midwifery — which opened part-way through the previous academic year — have contributed to a 37 per cent surge in applications in the latest admissions cycle according to a snapshot at the end of March 2022. Other new programmes such as physiotherapy have also proved popular and international applications have bounced back after the easing of Covid travel restrictions. BNU also makes effective use of Clearing, the admissions route used by 23 per cent of first-year students in 2021.
Degree apprenticeship provision extends to 12 programmes with more than 1,000 learners on courses including product design and development, nursing; social work, and academic practice. From September 2023 there are plans to deliver nine new degree apprenticeships in subjects including construction site management, civil engineering, and express delivery management. For more than 15 years, BNU has worked with Thames Valley Police to deliver policing programmes, which include a bachelor’s degree in police studies with criminal investigation, a police constable degree apprenticeship and a new pre-join professional policing programme.
Film and television degree courses boast the advantage of teaching on location from industry professionals at nearby Pinewood Studios. Courses are run via BNU’s partnership with Pinewood’s CMS training platform. The university’s facilities there include a cinema-standard viewing room, specialist dust and fume extraction, teaching rooms and new equipment for film workshops.
Travel and aviation courses include the chance to study for a pilot’s licence while working towards a degree. The quality of aviation provision has been rubber-stamped by the United Nations special agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which chose BNU as its partner in an aviation security master’s degree introduced in 2020.
The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) upgraded BNU’s bronze rating to silver in the second round of assessments in 2018. The judging panel was impressed by small class sizes and individual action plans to support students into work, as well as the university's engagement with the student body, and the “live briefs” co-designed with students to address real-world issues.
The university has fallen out of the top 100 for graduate prospects, however, in our analysis of the proportion in highly skilled work or postgraduate study within 15 months (108=).
BNU moves up five places in our research quality rankings (118th), boosted by an improved performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021). Art and design, history of art, geology, and sports sciences produced some of the best results. Overall, 44 per cent of BNU research was judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent, the top two categories.
BNU performs well across measures of social inclusion, rising nine places to 17=. It has the third-highest proportion of mature students (74.9 per cent) in the UK and succeeds in attracting one of the higher proportions of white working-class male students — now the most underrepresented group in higher education. Most students went to non-selective state schools and more than three in ten come from ethnic minority backgrounds. To widen access, contextual offers are made to eligible students with either a 12 or 24 Ucas tariff point reduction — which benefited 63 per cent of the 2021 intake, a proportion BNU expects to remain stable.
Sports facilities include one of only five swimming performance centres approved by Swim England. BNU operates more than 30 sports clubs and has links with professional clubs in the region. The university gym features app-based cardio machines and interactive exercise equipment. The Human Performance, Exercise and Wellbeing Centre has a three-lane running track with 3D motion-capture technology, with sports injury and physiotherapy clinics.
BNU owns or endorses 881 student bedrooms, a large proportion of them renting from just £79 per week. First-years who want to live in are guaranteed a space.
London is within easy reach of High Wycombe, which has its own student pubs and clubs too. The university funds free access to recreational and sporting activities through the students’ union’s Big Deal programme.