At Luton, the largest base, a £40 million, 6,000 sq m building for Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) opened recently as part of the university’s £180 million investment in its estate across six years. More recent upgrades to provision for students have included improved simulated learning in the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences, as well as dynamic interactive and traditional course resources from Harvard Business School for students within the University of Bedfordshire Business School. Aviation and airport management courses have acquired simulated business planning and operations experiences, along with industry standard Global Flight information and database sources that underpin live teaching and assessment.
The Bedford campus, in a leafy setting a 20-minute walk from the town centre, houses the education and sports faculty as well as courses in performing arts, law and business management. The university is one of the UK’s largest providers of training for physical education teachers and resources include a sports therapy suite at the Bedford site. A specialist sensory building has been developed for special educational needs, early years and primary education courses.
The Aylesbury campus at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, home of the highly regarded National Spinal Injuries Centre, is Bedfordshire’s newest, opened in 2020. The three-storey building has a specialist skills room set out as a ward, complete with audiovisual technology. Healthcare students undertake the classroom element of their course at Stoke Mandeville, while gaining experience in an integrated health trust that provides specialist, acute and community services. The university’s Health and Social Care Academy was launched in 2021, in partnership with local councils and NHS Trusts with the aim of developing the health, social work and social care workforce across Bedfordshire and the UK.
At the university’s Milton Keynes campus, courses range from human resource management to professional social work practice. The Putteridge Bury campus, a neo-Elizabethan mansion on the outskirts of Luton, doubles as a management centre and conference venue.
Applications for the 2022 admissions cycle had increased by almost 13 per cent by the end of March 2022, compared with the same point in the applications cycle the year before. However, across the decade from 2011 to 2021, applications have more than halved, although enrolments have decreased less sharply, by about 30 per cent.
New degrees have been introduced to appeal to more students. Degrees in English, sports coaching and development, and special educational needs and disability launched in September 2022 — with options to take a foundation or professional practice year or to study part-time. A top-up course in make-up for fashion and media also accepted its first students. From 2023-24 degrees in architectural technology, construction management, and financial technology will accept their first students — again with foundation or placement years. The university’s teacher training provision has added a degree in primary education (3-7) with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), and English (secondary) with QTS will start in September 2023.
Bedfordshire has slipped eight places in our research quality index to 85= but there were considerable successes in its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021). Creative writing and English both did especially well. Overall, 60 per cent of the university’s research was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent, the top two categories. Bedfordshire’s research capacity has improved over time: after doubling the size of its academic team behind its submission to the previous national assessments in 2008 and 2014, the university was awarded one of the biggest increases in research funding of any British university.
Bedfordshire gained silver in the Teaching Excellence Framework, winning praise for its success in widening participation, not only by enrolling students from underrepresented groups but also in helping them to achieve good results.
The university ranks 26= in our social inclusion table despite a fall of 16 places. In the five years that this index has been published, this is the first time that Bedfordshire has ranked lower than 11th. Nearly two-thirds of students are the first in their family to enter higher education, and nearly three-quarters are mature students aged over 21 when they begin their studies. Almost all (98.5 per cent) went to non-selective state schools.
The university does less well on course completion rates, however, remaining near the bottom in comparison with other institutions in England and Wales, although it has clawed back one place year-on-year. Bedfordshire’s dropout rate is significantly above its benchmark figure (about ten percentage points), taking into account the background of its students and the subject mix.
The financial support extended by Bedfordshire to its students is among the most inclusive in the country. Every undergraduate home entrant receives a minimum bursary of £1,500 over the duration of their course. Merit scholarships are given to students who achieve 112 Ucas tariff points at A-level, or equivalent qualifications, and receive £2,400 over three years.
In recognition of its work to manage and maintain environment sustainability the university ranks eighth out of 154 institutions in the People and Planet University Green League, and also holds platinum People and Planet certification.
Students have free access to activities such as football, basketball, swimming, racquet sports and fitness classes through the Get Active membership scheme. The university-owned Aspire gyms at both sites have high-quality equipment while the Bedford campus has an arena with show courts for basketball, netball and futsal. Shuttle buses take students to playing fields and a multipurpose sports hall. At Luton, students benefit from discounted access to a wealth of sports and leisure facilities at Venue 360.
First-years are guaranteed a space in student accommodation, which is divided across the Luton and Bedford campuses. The university markets its proximity to London as a big draw, although the social scene is lively closer to home too. Trains to the capital take 30 to 40 minutes.