The original Exton Park (Parkgate Road) campus is a 32-acre site a ten-minute walk from Chester city centre. The Queen’s Park campus, once the wartime headquarters of the army’s Western Command, now houses Chester Business School. At the Riverside campus, the Faculty of Health and Social Care has invested in facilities that give students access to a mock labour unit and a high-dependency unit simulation, as well as an anatomy suite with human cadaveric plastinated prosections and digital anatomy tables — among other new facilities.
Courses in education and children’s services are also based at Riverside, in the former county hall, and the Riverside Innovation Centre hosts business start-ups generated by Chester students and graduates.
The Kingsway creative campus houses arts and media courses. The merger of the departments of performing arts and media into the Department of Music, Media and Performance Acting has brought about opportunities for acting students to collaborate with those on the new media and TV production degree, which is housed in custom-built facilities. Similarly, programmes that combine music performance with commercial music production have been developed.
The expanded Warrington centre has moved from its out-of-town Padgate base into new town centre premises, where it occupies a shopfront building in Time Square — where members of the public may access learning opportunities, digital resources, lecture and seminar space, and a TED Talks-style event space. There are more facilities five minutes’ away in Barbauld Street’s Sarah Parker Remond building, home to programmes in business, policing, social work, nursing and teaching. As with other Chester developments, students were involved in designing the spaces.
Elsewhere, the new Design and Manufacturing Suite on the main Exton Park campus has brought workshop space with manufacturing facilities including those suitable for mechanical engineering. A computer project laboratory and design suite upstairs is the new base for students on the product design course and for engineering product design students. The space is also open to those on chemical engineering, physics and chemistry courses. Students receive mentoring by a personal academic tutor throughout their degree.
Student satisfaction scores have yet to recover since the pandemic in our measures derived from the latest National Student Survey (NSS), however. Chester has slipped 30 places to 124th for satisfaction with the wider undergraduate experience, near the foot of our table, and has fallen 21 places to 79= for satisfaction with teaching quality. Just three years ago Chester ranked in the top 30 on both measures. Chester expects to double its number of student apprentices (565, at the last count) by September 2023. A programme to train senior leaders is new to the portfolio of degree apprentices, joining existing programmes that include healthcare assistant practitioner, police constable, registered nurse and chartered manager.
The first fashion communication marketing (social media) students started courses in September 2022. Course delivery mirrors the fashion communication marketing industry for social media, with students becoming interns mentored by industry professionals. The degree’s innovative structure delivers 75 per cent online and 25 per cent face-to-face over two years. Comprising six modules taught sequentially over six trimesters within a social media platform, it aims to impart high level social media skills alongside sought-after transferable competencies.
A graduate entry medicine degree is also new, as are programmes in philosophy, ethics and religion; and in banking and finance. From 2023 degrees will be launched in criminology and cybersecurity; and social justice and community action. Theology, health subjects and sports and exercise science produced some of the best results in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021). Overall, 51 per cent of research was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent, compared with 31 per cent in the previous assessment in 2014, while the number of staff who submitted research almost doubled.
Chester’s silver award in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) brought praise for its students’ employability skills. About two-thirds of undergraduates take work-based learning modules. The TEF panel said Chester had an “embedded culture of valuing, recognising and rewarding good teaching”. More than two-thirds of the academic staff hold Higher Education Academy fellowships. Evening classes in a foreign language are offered to all students, and there are opportunities to volunteer, run a society or join a team, band or theatre group. Students can beef up the contacts and references in their e-portfolio through work placements and industry events.
Chester’s graduate prospects have declined slightly, down six places year-on-year to 70th, according to our analysis of the latest Graduate Outcomes survey tracking the proportion in highly skilled work or further study 15 months after finishing their degree. The institution has fallen seven places in our social inclusion index but remains in the top 25 for its efforts to recruit students from underrepresented groups.
First-years are guaranteed student accommodation, about a fifth of which is fully catered. Most sports facilities are near the Exton Park site, which includes a sports hall, grass pitches, tennis and squash courts, a swimming pool and a fitness studio. Shrewsbury students are entitled to free membership at the town’s sports village.
Liverpool and Manchester are within easy reach, while Chester is one of those places beloved by students seeking the security of a smaller city but with plenty of entertainment too.