Elsewhere, courses are arranged under faculties of creative industries, architecture and engineering; sport, health and social sciences; and business, law and digital technologies. The university’s £33 million Spark building featured educational technology including lecture-capture facilities even before the pandemic hit.
Technological advances of late include free access for all students to the entire suite of Adobe creative software, while physical developments have added an attractive new quad with outdoor space and a replica law court. A new student services hub (located within the teaching and learning spaces) is planned for 2023. Allowing easy access to student-facing supports should further improve Solent’s rates of student satisfaction, which took a big hit in during the pandemic but have risen to enter the top 40 for teaching quality (up 13 places) this year and the top 70 for the wider experience (up eight places).
The uplift in students’ evaluation of teaching quality suggests that Solent’s blended approach is being reasonably well received. As the university emerged from lockdown in September 2021 Solent adopted a new teaching model based on three pillars — of collaborative, guided and directed learning. Previously known as seminars, collaborative sessions take place mainly on campus and gather groups of students to explore case studies and solve real-world problems. The guided element relates to opportunities for gaining work-ready skills either live online, live on-site or on demand via the university’s virtual learning environment. Directed learning is Solent’s new term for lectures, which happen mainly online.
Building industry connections into courses Southampton’s newly established Business Advisory Boards have placed senior leaders from organisations such as NatWest, Sunseeker and Pinterest at the heart of the university, allowing them to inform the future curriculum and provide opportunities for students.
There is also a 2021-launched strategic partnership with Southampton FC (“Saints”) that has resulted in Solent and Saints now collaborating to attract, retain and develop sporting talent and learners. The link gives students real-world industry experience with Southampton FC, and football studies degree students receive more than 20 hours of professional coaching and development from the team’s coaches.
The university’s portfolio of higher and degree apprenticeships encompasses 19 programmes, with about 650 student apprentices on programmes at the last count. Options span subjects within business and administration; marketing; health and science; digital; construction; engineering and manufacturing; and transport and logistics. Courses in cybersecurity and advanced clinical practice are being offered from 2023, in line with Solent’s plan to grow its earn-as-you-learn options.
The university’s employment-boosting initiatives have yet to lift its ranking in our graduate prospects measure however, where it places 123rd this year (down one place on last year), based on the latest figures showing 63.3 per cent of graduates in high-skilled jobs or further study 15 months on from their degrees.
Solent was upgraded to silver in the Teaching Excellence Framework. Assessors were impressed by students’ high levels of engagement and commitment to learning, and by the substantial investment in learning resources and successful integration of research and professional practice into the curriculum.
In the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) 34 per cent of the work submitted for assessment by Solent achieved the top ratings of world-leading or internationally excellent. Though modest, the scores have prompted an improvement for Solent in our research quality index, where it has moved off the foot of the ranking to fourth-from-bottom. Two new research centres — the Centre for Maritime Sustainability and the Maritime Autonomy research centre — strengthen the university’s commitment to building its research profile.
Among the eight indicators included in our social inclusion index, Solent excels in its recruitment of white working-class boys, which at 9.3 per cent of entrants is among the top ten proportions in England and Wales. A fifth of students are recruited from underrepresented areas (a top 15 measure) and more than four in ten are aged over-21 when they enrol. Contextual offers are among the initiatives supporting the university’s widening participation ambitions and are worth a 16-point or 32-point reduction on the standard UCAS tariff for entry, depending on how many eligibility criteria applicants meet.
The sports complex on the main campus is a recent addition and features equipment for Solent’s performance athletes as well as for general use. Sports scholars receive accommodation discounts and other valuable benefits. At Test Park, a few miles away, there are outdoor pitches for football (and American football) and rugby union. Students have access to the Coalporters Rowing Club near campus and Spinnaker Sailing Club 18 miles away, among other local pursuits. Team Solent Sailing teams compete successfully in national competitions.
First-year students are guaranteed a residential room if they apply by July 1. Along with student-friendly pubs and clubs in the East Park area, Southampton offers sea air, beaches nearby and the New Forest.