Big increases in student satisfaction have helped the RAU jump 14 places in our league table, although it remains outside the top 100. It has recovered from pandemic woes to be among the top ten universities for student satisfaction with the wider undergraduate experience, and ranks 54= for satisfaction with teaching quality, according to our analysis of the latest National Student Survey outcomes.
Applications have been booming, rising 30 per cent in 2021. The addition of foundation years on all BSc courses has been one reason for the growth in demand for places, as well as assisting the efforts to widen the intake.
Based in 25 scenic acres outside Cirencester, the RAU has been visited by every monarch since Queen Victoria. Established in 1845, it has acquired the nickname of “Oxbridge of the countryside” owing to its high proportions of privately educated students. It remains close to the bottom of our social inclusion index for England and Wales, with only 55.9 per cent from non-selective state schools and just 1.4 per cent from ethnic minorities.
In an effort to widen the intake, applicants from particular low-performing schools and colleges, students from areas with low participation in higher education, care leavers and those from ethnic groups underrepresented at the RAU were guaranteed a conditional offer this year. The university intends to make this a contextual offer for 2023 entry, reducing the standard offer by one A-level grade or its equivalent for students in the target groups. In addition, a new Ethnic Minority Excellence Scholarship gives full remission for tuition fees.
The RAU was awarded silver in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework, winning praise for its specialist facilities. Assessors were impressed by the employer-informed course design, work placements and extracurricular opportunities for students to develop skills and attributes valued by employers. Hands-on learning takes place at Coates Manor Farm next to the campus, at Kemble Farms dairy complex and at Leaze Farm. A recent partnership with the neighbouring Bathurst Estate also gives students access to 15,000 acres of farmland, forestry, environmentally managed land, real estate and heritage properties, along with a range of rural enterprises for teaching, research and knowledge exchange.
Students may spend a sandwich year in industry as part of their degree, and entrepreneurial activity is encouraged by schemes such as the RAU’s programme for student start-ups, which offers access to local business mentors. The RAU is one of only six universities — and the only specialist provider — to be made a Centre of Excellence by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs.
Results improved in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, although the university did not quite break into the top 100 in our research ranking. Half of the work submitted was considered world-leading or internationally excellent. The RAU has six research clusters concentrating on applied work in the natural world and with links as far afield as China, Brazil and sub-Saharan Africa.
On campus, a new student hub opened in 2019 housing all student facilities, including the students’ union. There are facilities for a number of sports, from lacrosse, hockey and rugby to tennis, croquet and netball. Polo is played at a club about 12 miles from campus, rowing at Gloucester Rowing Club and shooting at Hollow Fosse.
Three-quarters of the 339 rooms in eight halls of residence on campus are catered. They are enough to accommodate about 80 per cent of first-year students, and the university works with local providers to satisfy those who live off campus. The university’s small numbers and countryside location encourage a collegiate atmosphere, with the campus the centre of social activity. There are ample opportunities to explore the Cotswolds and London is only 90 minutes away by train.