A broad-based interdisciplinary approach has been part of Keele’s DNA since its foundation in 1949 as an “experiment” in postwar university education by Lord Lindsay, whose words still resonate: “If we are going to try and keep a democratic country and maintain understanding of one another, we have to send out people from our universities who can do the technical stuff and who at the same time have an understanding of political and social problems and of the values that lie behind them.”
The university, which offers the interdisciplinary liberal arts and natural sciences degrees as well as dual honours programmes, was awarded gold — the highest standard — in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The judging panel praised the Keele Curriculum, introduced in 2012, which covers voluntary and sporting activities as well as the academic core. It contributes to the Keele University Skills Portfolio, accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management. The TEF panel also commended an institutional culture that “demonstrably values teaching as highly as research”, with outstanding levels of student engagement and excellent teaching and assessment practices resulting in a commitment to learning.
A former winner of our University of the Year for Student Experience, Keele comes a cropper in our analysis of the latest National Student Survey (NSS), plummeting 61 places for satisfaction with the wider undergraduate experience to rank 90=. It also falls 53 places for satisfaction with teaching quality, now ranking 104=. Campus-based teaching has returned, the university reports. Large group lectures are back, supplemented by online material and live content recorded for playback — which should help to improve student satisfaction in future.
Based in 600 acres of parkland in the heart of England, near Stoke-on-Trent, Keele continues to refresh its self-contained campus landscape. The university’s low carbon energy generation park became fully operational in 2021 — a significant milestone in Keele’s ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2030. Featuring two wind turbines, 12,500 solar panels and an industrial-sized battery to store the generated energy, up to 50 per cent of the campus’ electricity requirements come from renewable sources. Known affectionately as the “Keele bubble”, the university’s campus has all the amenities of a small town — giving students access to shops, a bank, a health centre and a pharmacy along with bars and restaurants.
The newly opened 150-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel is the latest addition to on-site amenities, nestled in the university’s Science and Innovation Park. A new Digital Society Institute opened in summer 2022, its purpose to drive local business growth by sharing Keele’s research expertise with relevant industries including health, business, energy and computing.
Now in its third year, the veterinary school — a joint venture between Keele and Harper Adams universities — features a hospital and a clinical skill centre among its 2022-opened teaching and learning facilities. Students benefit from the combined teaching, research and wider vocational experiences of Keele and Harper Adams. Sir David Attenborough opened the life sciences laboratories and, elsewhere, the Keele Business School has a big-data laboratory and a business incubator. The £34 million Central Science Laboratory brings together practical teaching across a range of disciplines.
The demand for undergraduate places increased by 16 per cent in the 2021 admissions round, year-on-year, to a level last seen five years ago. New student enrolments also swelled in the same entry cycle, but by a more modest 3 per cent. Its popular health programmes attract a significant number of applications, the university notes, and enjoy teaching and facilities on campus as well as at sites including University Hospitals of North Midlands — one of the largest acute hospitals in the country.
Research at Keele’s Institute for Sustainable Futures is focused on issues such as food security, climate change and clean energy. Recognising its efforts to embed sustainability across all campus operations, Keele was awarded Sustainability Institution of the Year at the 2021 Green Gown awards, which celebrate such efforts within higher education institutions.
In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) 80 per cent of the work submitted by Keele was placed in the top two categories of world-leading or internationally excellent, an improvement on results from the previous national assessment in 2014. The university also increased the number of academics put forward to the REF by 25 per cent. Some of the best results were in allied health; dentistry; agriculture; communication and media studies; archaeology; and general engineering.
Keele is more successful than many other pre-1992 universities in our social inclusion index, where it ranks 39th, up one place on last year. The non-selective state school intake sits at 83.8 per cent, 35.2 per cent have an ethnic minority background and 5.5 per cent are white working-class boys, the most underrepresented group in higher education.
In further efforts to widen participation, about 10 per cent of applicants in the 2021 cycle received a contextual offer. These are available for the majority of courses, allowing eligible applicants to receive a reduced offer at least one grade below the standard requirements. The medical school runs a widening participation scheme to support students from underrepresented groups.
Sports facilities include a full-size 3G football pitch suitable for all-weather play in a variety of sports to supplement the indoor facilities. The university has about 2,800 residential spaces — enough to guarantee a space to first-years who apply by the deadline. Renowned for its safe, friendly atmosphere Keele was ranked No 1 Best UK University in the Student Crowd Awards 2022, which are based on student feedback.