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In a watershed moment for regional co-operation, the University of Wolverhampton and 14 partner colleges signed an agreement to encourage more pupils to continue into higher education. Called the University of Wolverhampton Collaborative Achievement Network (UWCAN), it has a name that tells everyone exactly what it’s about.
In the words of Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline Gipps: “This exciting new partnership initiative brings college and University staff together to work collaboratively on developing new courses and opportunities for students across the region. UWCAN will help students to progress on to higher levels of learning with more confidence, and enable college and University staff to share ideas on teaching, learning and new course provision.”
The agreement includes the City of Wolverhampton College, Dudley College, Halesowen College, New College Telford, Rodbaston College, Sandwell College, Solihull College, South Birmingham College, Stourbridge College, Sutton Coldfield and Matthew Boulton Colleges, Telford College of Arts and Technology, Walsall College and Worcester College.
In May, Schools Minister Jim Knight launched the Black Country Challenge at the New Walsall Art Gallery. Headed by Professor Sir Geoff Hampton, the Challenge is a £28 million campaign to raise standards in schools across the most deprived areas of the West Midlands.
Sir Geoff is Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton and Director of the Midlands Leadership Centre. His role places the University in the central stream of activity flowing from this vital regional initiative.
Already, a number of the programmes are involving the University and its staff. The City Gates Gifted and Talented programme, which aims to increase the number of disadvantaged, gifted students entering higher education, is being coordinated by the University. At the same time, the School of Education is developing new pathways into teaching in Black Country schools, with Wolverhampton undergraduates coaching young people in secondary schools.
We’ll be there to actively assist with a wide range of projects in the coming years, and welcoming many of these Black Country students on to our courses.
As the effects of the recession combine with a world shortage of food to squeeze some of the poorest people on our planet, the University took a small step towards helping out. In July, Fairtrade status was awarded to the University at a ceremony held in the Mayoral Suite at the Civic Centre.
We’ve held awareness events, opened Fairtrade outlets and promoted Fairtrade food and drink. But that’s not the end of the story. We’re looking at other products the University could use, such as Fairtrade cotton for catering and caretaking uniforms. In the meantime, you are welcome to come and sip our Fairtrade coffee, with a nice Fairtrade muffin, perhaps.
Wolverhampton is regularly named one of the best universities in the country for widening participation. Our Equality and Diversity Unit is a new initiative to ensure that we provide the same opportunities to all who work and study here, so that we attract and retain staff and students who reflect the diversity of the wider society.
The new Unit was officially launched in October with a ceremony at the Arena Theatre. It will encourage good practice and work to ensure an ethnically diverse staff and student body, with equivalent levels of satisfaction and progression for all groups. The unit is already heavily involved in developing the curriculum, offering guidance and training, and supporting staff networks.
University of Wolverhampton lecturers have secured £18,000 for a training programme aimed at reducing the incidence of low birth weight babies in Walsall, where 11.6 per cent of children are potentially disadvantaged by weighing in at less than 2.5 kilos. The School of Health will deliver staff training for up to 300 health professionals and support workers.
With over 885 million people speaking Mandarin, it’s becoming the essential language to learn. Now, school pupils will be able to learn Mandarin with the help of teaching resources developed by the University’s Language Networks for Excellence team. The new materials are aimed at teaching pupils phrases and important inter-cultural skills they can use in business situations. They can also work towards a Certificate in Business Chinese.