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Undergraduate School is a game-changer for tertiary education


Over the next six months, Colleges Scotland is marking the diversity and variety of the work that Scotland's 24 colleges do with our new blog series, 24 in 2024. The second in our blog series is by Nicola Mullholland, Dean of the Undergraduate School, New College Lanarkshire.

Scotland’s colleges have never faced tougher challenges than those they face today.

While the needs of employers for increasingly skilled workforces has grown rapidly, funding within the nation’s primary skills delivery sector has seen a significant decline.

In North Lanarkshire, the local economy has seen a significant uplift in recent years. However, with degree attainment lower than the Scottish average, too many local people have been missing out on the opportunities to benefit from the influx of investment,

For us at New College Lanarkshire and our colleagues at the University of the West of Scotland, it had become increasingly obvious that an innovative, collaborative approach was needed to remove barriers to access degree-level learning and to create a new home for those who have previously been excluded.

To effect change however, meant a great deal of work and trust between organisations who, like universities and colleges across Scotland, have often been in direct competition for students and the credits they bring.

However, the needs of students to have increased access to Higher Education and for our Region to be delivering the skilled workforces tomorrow’s SMEs, businesses and industries demand meant that the leap of faith was taken and a new dawn for tertiary education in Lanarkshire was given the green light.

To that end, in September we will welcome the first cohort of students to our new Undergraduate School where they will begin their studies for six new industry-focused degrees, each of which is aligned to meet specific skills deficits in the Lanarkshire region as identified by key stakeholders such as Skills Development Scotland and North Lanarkshire Council. 

The new degrees include health and social care, business, digital technologies, science and the Arts with a strong focus on supporting, developing and growing the SME community in the region.

Students will directly benefit from the teaching expertise, industry knowledge and resource capability of both New College Lanarkshire and the University of the West of Scotland. 

These new degrees are added to our existing portfolio of industry-focused degree provision in computing, accounting, film-making and screenwriting along with music business, performance and sound production. 

To further enhance the offer to students we are welcoming more than 20 Honorary Appointees from the worlds of industry, business and the third sector who will give their time to deliver lectures, seminars and other learning opportunities for our students, based on their own experiences in their chosen field.

From writers, broadcasters and academics to health professionals, industry leaders and technology specialists, each of them has committed to playing their part in bringing relevant real-life experiences and expertise directly to our students and offering them insights and guidance which they would never previously have acquired.

In the coming years the ambition for the Undergraduate School is to grow the collaborative portfolio of degrees available to allow even more Lanarkshire students to access a University degree within a supportive College environment which is also close to home. 

The partnership between the University and the College is driven by a strong commitment to fairness and equality which is demonstrated by our shared determination to bringing the benefits of Higher Education to even more students across the Lanarkshire region.  

This is the first time that a University has partnered in this way to formally establish an Undergraduate School within a College campus setting. The new Undergraduate School also signals the first direct presence of a University within the North Lanarkshire area. 

Creating increased opportunities for students to succeed increases the opportunities for our Region to thrive. It provides pathways out of food and child poverty, creates the skilled workforces of tomorrow from within the local community and generates growth within the Lanarkshire economy.

In a few short months, students will begin their degree learning within the Undergraduate School. And that is just the beginning. As the University and College continue to work together our ability to deliver social justice through increased access to Higher Education and the opportunities that brings will only develop and grow.

The Undergraduate School represents a step-change in the delivery of Higher Education in Lanarkshire and September’s launch will be a game-changer for our students, our communities and our Region.



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