The White Paper is explicit about creating opportunities for new entrants to the sector and identifies some recent additions:
Thanks to a series of reforms in the last Parliament, our higher education system is now more open than ever to different types of provider. Providers including University Campus Suffolk and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have secured DAPs since 2010. The reforms have also enabled several providers to become universities, such as University of Law and the Royal Agricultural University in 2012, and Regents University London in 2013.
The intention is to provide the frequently cited ‘level playing field’ to make it quicker and easier for new entrants to navigate their way through the difficult process of becoming a university. So, with all the opportunities offered by the HE White Paper for new entrants to the sector, how many new ‘challenger’ universities are we going to get?
The terminology is interesting here and in fact the only specific reference to ‘challenger’ institutions in the White Paper comes in the Minister’s foreword. I do like the notion of challengers, and indeed it is a useful concept (which I have seen used before) in considering the strategic ambition of existing universities. There is at least one institution which has taken it to a new level: you can now study at the Challenger Institute of Technology in Western Australia.
Only two years ago David Willetts set out ambitions to support university expansion into higher education ‘cold spots’ around the country in cathedral cities, county towns and coastal communities that currently lack provision.
There is a frequently repeated observation that there are only four counties in England which currently lack a university. With news that University Campus Suffolk is to become the University of Suffolk (previously only a fictional university fleetingly referred to in David Lodge’s Nice Work), from August 1st this will be down to three.
So only three counties will remain university-less. But which three are they? I think I know but I’m still not absolutely sure (and neither is Mike Boxall, who suggested I ask). So, there’s a challenge for you. Put your answers in comments.