The University of Central Lancashire tops the table when it comes to providing a first class “student experience”. Education Reporter SONJA ASTBURY travelled 2,500 miles to see that world class reputation in practice - at the Cypriot campus
Cyprus, the birthplace of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love – not the first place that you expect to see road signs directing you to the University of Central Lancashire.
But, follow the winding road from the seafront towards the village of Pyla and there it is - UCLan Cyprus.
The familiar white lettering and signature roses shouting from the hilltops that we have arrived.
With help from the weather, it doesn’t take long to realise why those working and studying at this very British institution say it is home from home - and they love it.
The University of Central Lancashire is no stranger to firsts. After graduating from a polytechnic the Preston-based institution quickly developed a reputation as the fastest growing university in the country and the first modern uni in the the UK to be included in the QS World Rankings.
Most UK universities recruit students directly from abroad but more have also become actively involved in the delivery of global or ‘transnational’ education either through franchise arrangements or the building of overseas campuses.
Bosses back in Preston have made no secret of the fact that they want to spread the UCLan experience around globe and in recent years have made inroads into all corners from the Masai Mara to China.
Now though, following changes to the way higher education is funded it has branched out developing private universities under the UCLan badge but financed and run as completely separate businesses.
The 53m Euro UK-style campus just outside Larnaka is the first - and despite the criticism back home about our educational standards the folks in Cyprus can’t get enough of it. Until now they had traditionally sent their offspring to the UK for higher education.
UCLan is changing all that.
It is the first - and only - private British university on the island and since opening two years ago has already surpassed its target.
Rector Melinda Tan explains: “It is the first British university on the island with its own education licence.
“What normally happens in Cyprus is the fact a lot of the private colleges actually have franchise links, they are just like programmes that are accredited so we are the first university really that actually has a joint award in which our awards are actually recognised by the Ministry of Education as well as back home. So students get both awards.”
“The big advantage is we are providing a British education here.
“Obviously, with the economic crisis, it has become more difficult for them to send children overseas financially so the Cypriots are quite grateful of the fact that there is British education here and it is the same kind of quality standard and quality monitoring in terms of that it is a prestigious degree.
“Over here in Cyprus there is no national QA monitoring system - each university has its own, so there is no standardisation so they look towards the British for a global standard.”
Classes are all taught in English and are identical to those back in Preston and Melinda is very proud of the fact that staff are trained to doctoral level.
Melinda says that in recent years there has been a big interest in higher education on the island and with 366 students at present 280 or so are a mixture of locals and internationals.
The international students come from across the globe from as far apart as Russia and Ukraine to the Middle East, Norway and Sweden and Tanzania and there is even one student from the USA and five Chinese.
Because of the political situation on the island, there are a few “visa challenges” but the UCLan campus is one of few places where Turkish and Greek Cypriots live side by side.
So, attracting the overseas students is a big achievement for UCLan, which is also working with the state university to help it improve its internationalisation.
Besides providing students with the most up to date facilities in the world- it has the only moot court on the island and within months of opening UCLan Cyprus won Europe’s top audio visual innovation award - it is also playing a key role in helping develop the area creating jobs and income for the village, The facilities are used by locals and schools use it’s theatres.
Back in Preston deputy vice-chancellor Dr Graham Baldwin says: “It is remarkable to think that over 3,000 international students are currently enrolled on off-shore UCLan programmes, with almost 2,000 more studying in Preston.
This activity translates into between £15m and £20m of university income, much of which is invested here at the Preston campus, with the rest supporting our wider internationalisation agenda.
By any measure we have been hugely successful and our revised international strategy will build upon our strengths.
“Our strategy incorporates direct international student recruitment, growth in transnational education numbers through collaborative delivery and the commissioning of a small number of UCLan’s own international campuses such as UCLan Cyprus.”
• In tomorrow’s Evening Post, we speak to some of UCLan Cyprus’s students.