Three pillars for a successful university

Aberystwyth invests in multiple developments to ensure it continues to rise through the league tables. Charley Rogers reports

Modern universities have to cater to a huge range of student expectations. Not only are they expected to provide a top-class education, but also to ensure that students are happy with their living and studying environments, facilities, outlets, and career prospects. Aberystwyth has recently had a series of developments that addresses three of the pillars of a successful university: academics, career prospects, and wellbeing. Having risen 19 places through The Complete University Guide’s league table this year to sit at an all-time high of 68th, Aberystwyth is on the up, and it seems like there’s no stopping it. 

Thinking Smart

One of Aberystwyth’s recent investments includes the £8.8m funding provided for the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS). 

The funding comes from The Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), and is part of a huge £319m investment to ensure bioscience research in the UK remains competitive in the global arena. IBERS is the only research institute in Wales to receive a strategic award, and will use the investment to deliver the BBSRC’s Core Strategic Programme for Resilient Crops. The programme is in place to improve the economic, productive and environmental sustainability of crops in the face of climatic and political change across the world. Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive, says of the project, “The positive impacts in food, agriculture, energy, materials and health will help drive economic growth and deliver benefits to society across the UK and beyond.” 

As well as this specific investment for the university, Aberystwyth is also noticing a general rise in its overall performance. The institution has risen 19 places in The Complete University Guide league table for 2018, the largest jump in ranking of any of the 129 listed universities. Professor John Grattan, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience at Aberystwyth University, said: “Our success has been driven by the quality of our teaching, our world-leading research, our employability initiatives and our high levels of student satisfaction. The latest rankings are also testament to the hard work of our dedicated staff who deliver excellent research-led teaching here at Aber, the ambition of our students and the University’s investment in its facilities.”

Future Prospects

However, it is not only the current status of students that is being addressed at Aber. The future prospects of Aberystwyth graduates is an important consideration for the University, and one they are taking steps to address. Alongside academic courses and subject-specific training, Aberystwyth has now introduced an entire module focused on post-study employability. Coming at a point in history when the UK’s higher education sector is heavily focused on the measurable return on the investments required for a university degree, this module is certainly a timely and welcomed addition. 

The module has been launched by the Institute of Business and Law (IBL), and will provide structured work placements for third year students within the school, to enable them to apply the skills learned through their academic courses to the real world. Local businesses, as well as government and charity organisations, will support the module, offering work experience to students. One of the biggest employers in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion County Council, will offer up to 18 places across the council in various different work areas. 

The University has developed the new module with the help of the leading social housing providers in Wales, Wales & West Housing. This particular course is part of a wider initiative from the University, which aims to develop the overall employability skills of students. Professor Jo Crotty, Institute Director for Business and Law, said, “I am very excited that we are bringing together so many local employers to give students the opportunity to gain practical work experience as part of their degree. This is unique amongst business and law programmes in Wales and with such a great support from both students and staff it is sure to be a great success.” 

Inclusivity and Wellbeing

Investing three years in a degree means students have to be happy both working and living in their university environments. A large part of this experience is the acceptance of and provision for diverse cultural and religious beliefs, as well as dedicated facilities to support students pastorally as well as academically. 

The traditional Student Support Services continue to be a valuable asset to universities, as well as various religious societies and facilities. However, the growing desire for inclusivity within university life is often somewhat hindered by these offerings being both completely separate from other parts of university life, and, all too often, from each other. 

This is where Aberystwyth’s new all-faith space has erased boundaries, and welcomed true inclusivity. The new space was officially opened at the end of March this year, and is specifically dedicated to providing a quiet and neutral space for prayer, meditation, and reflection for students and staff of all religions. Purposefully built without any religious icons or symbols, the space is open to all those who desire a quiet and sacred space, whether that be for religious devotion, or secular mindfulness and contemplation. 

Caryl Davies, Director of Student Support Services, commented: “This new Faith Space demonstrates the University’s commitment to welcoming religious diversity, and helping to accommodate the faith needs of our diverse staff and student body through the provision of a neutral space. This new Faith Space complements our existing one at the Llanbadarn Centre.” 

Comprehensive support, then, is the aim of the game for Aberystwyth. 

Its recent climb up the league tables is not only based on academic performance, but also takes into account student satisfaction, research quality, and graduate prospects. Focusing on producing graduates that not only have an academic understanding of their subject, but that are also trained to apply their transferrable skills to the working world, means that Team Aberystwyth could see ever-elevated heights very soon. 

Did you know?

  • In 1872, the University was opened in a half-finished hotel building on the sea front in Aberystwyth. There were 26 ill-prepared students and a teaching staff of three.
  • 95% of the University’s research is of an internationally recognised standard.
  • Aberystwyth has risen 19 places in the complete university guide league table for 2018, the largest jump of any 129 listed universities.
  • Aber is 4th in the UK and 1st in Wales for student satisfaction.

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