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Member Institutions

The University of Bath

The University of Bath: WVLLN

The University of Bath is rated in the top dozen universities in the UK by national newspaper guides. Its research is internationally-respected, and its students are in demand by employers because of the high quality of the teaching offered.

The University has had close connections with industry and the public and voluntary sectors since its inception in 1966. It has a distinctive approach that emphasises the education of professional practitioners and the promotion of original inquiry, as well as innovation in partnership with business, the professions, public services and the voluntary sector.

The attractive campus is about a mile from the centre of Bath, a World Heritage City. It is a safe and friendly campus with strong student services and good social opportunities. Its sports facilities are first-class.

Learning Partnerships, based with the Division for Lifelong Learning, works with regional colleges to provide high quality, vocationally-oriented, higher education programmes such as foundation degrees and has a strong commitment to widening participation in, and improving access to, higher education.

Discussions between Bath’s admission tutors and the WVLLN Progression Coordinator have resulted in a number of progression agreements in the subject areas of Engineering, Business and Social Policy which recognise the transferability of skills within national diplomas. The University has also approved agreements which will facilitate progression onto foundation degrees for applicants with relevant professional experience and vocational qualifications gained in the workplace who may not previously have considered higher education as being for them.

Bath Spa University

Bath Spa University: WVLLN

One of the first major 'teaching-led' universities, Bath Spa University places the highest possible emphasis on teaching quality by putting the student at the very centre of its activities. Situated on two campuses of breathtaking beauty (Newton Park and Sion Hill), Bath Spa University offers pre-degree study, undergraduate degrees and postgraduate degrees in a wide range of programmes. The University has achieved high rankings in national newspaper league tables and in 2006 was voted 5th best ‘modern’ university (out of 64 ‘modern’ UK universities) in the Sunday Times University Guide. Its popularity as a university is growing each year, and in the past five years it has achieved a 40% increase in undergraduate applications.

Academic staff at Bath Spa University are passionate about their subjects, and their aim is to deliver excellent teaching to enthusiastic students who are committed to achieving their potential. Considerable emphasis is placed on developing innovative methods of teaching and assessment in an environment that is supportive and friendly. With around 5,500 students the University is small enough for students to benefit from such a supportive and friendly study environment, but large enough to provide excellent facilities and resources.

In addition to its high reputation for delivering teacher training courses, Bath Spa University has been designated a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the creative industries, having won a bid in a major competitive programme of funding in 2005. This has enabled significant investment in resources and facilities for students across the Schools of Music and Performing Arts, English and Creative Studies and Bath School of Art and Design. Through the development of innovative learning and teaching combined with strengthened links with key employers and industry partners, the Centre is supporting new flexible models of education to enhance the employability of students at Bath Spa University.

With 40% of students over the age of 25, Bath Spa University supports the mission of the Western Vocational Lifelong Learning Network (WVLLN) in its commitment to widening participation and improving access to higher education for vocational learners of all ages. The Wessex Partnership, based within the School for Development and Participation, has formed partnerships with a number of local and regional Further Education Colleges to provide students with opportunities to engage in higher education and study BSU awards locally. The Wessex Partnership offers an expanding portfolio of vocational, work-related Foundation Degrees in subjects as diverse as Fashion, Counselling, Popular Music, Early Years and Tourism Management. More than 10% of Bath Spa University students study at a partner college within the Wessex Partnership.

The University of Bristol

The University of Bristol: WVLLN

The University of Bristol is internationally distinguished with outstanding staff, first rate facilities and talented students. It is situated in the heart of Bristol and is a thriving international community dedicated to learning, discovery, enterprise and research. We are committed to widening participation and the work of the Western Vocational Lifelong Learning Network and to extending opportunities for learners through the development of flexible entry routes and work-related study opportunities. We have approved an agreement designed to facilitate progression opportunities for applicants on Access courses.

Building upon our success, our ‘Strand post’ has been created to identify the potential of Higher Education curriculum to support training within the Community & Voluntary sectors. As a result the University of Bristol has expanded its delivery of flexible part-time courses, and in 2007, in partnership with the City of Bristol College, we have designed, developed and delivered our first ever Foundation Degree in the field of Counselling. This qualification is designed to enable widening participation by providing opportunities for students to earn as they learn: and provides more flexible approaches to curriculum design and planning to support the progression of mature learners who are in work.

This FD has attracted an exceedingly wide range of students in terms of background and academic ability. We have a number of non-traditional learners, together with high performing HE achievers, who have succeeded academically to Masters level and beyond. This range of diversity extends to student backgrounds – we have experienced helpers who have spent their professional life in careers such as nursing and social work; learners who have gained their practical skills through their own addictions and recovery work; and those who are relatively new to the helping fields and are looking to fulfil an ambition to help others.

The FD has attracted a diverse range of students in relation to age and ethnic origin. We have an 18 year old school leaver learning alongside a 73 year old mature student, returning to HE education. This enables the students to share rich life experiences and appreciate a diverse group membership.

We are working alongside the WVLLN to develop a new Foundation Degree in Deaf Communication Support Work and create the BSc Top-up programme for our existing Foundation Degree in Counselling. This curriculum will form part of the Centre for Personal and Professional Development, a unique new Centre that was formed in early 2007 and sits within the School of Applied & Community Health Studies. The Centre offers and maximises opportunities for personal growth and professional development and has a growing research profile, which informs teaching and learning and has links with other research centres within the University.

Drawing upon our experience and our curriculum knowledge in this sector area, we will be responsible for developing further vocational provision in the subject area and co-ordinating and leading the development of the curriculum with subject specialists and employer/agency involvement.

The University of Gloucestershire

The University of Gloucestershire: WVLLN

At the University of Gloucestershire (where ‘learning is for life’) we are committed to providing a high-quality student experience in a supportive environment. We offer attractive campuses with excellent facilities in Cheltenham, Gloucester and London and we have recently put in place new academic and pastoral support systems whilst reviewing our teaching and learning strategy.
We have also committed to ensuring that sustainability is at the heart of all our endeavours, in academic delivery and in corporate and estates planning. Our achievements to date have been recognised by our winning of the ‘Green Gown’ award for continuous improvement in sustainability. Our new Sustainability Institute will be at the heart of our ongoing commitment to this agenda.
Since 2006, the University of Gloucestershire has become an active member of the Western Vocational Lifelong Learning Network (WVLLN), keen to take forward the WVLLN agenda and promote progression into and through higher education for vocational learners. Already a flexible institution which offers high quality and diverse teaching that is relevant and current to professional employment, the University is also working closely with the network and local FECs to develop an FD in Accounting .
It is anticipated that these developments, combined with other new initiatives developed at the University of Gloucestershire (regional lead for Business and Management/ IT), will not only aid the progression of non-traditional, vocational learners, but will also enhance employer engagement within the region and respond to the national skills agenda.

Royal Agricultural College

Royal Agricultural College: WVLLN

The Royal Agricultural College, set in the heart of the Cotswolds, is the oldest agricultural college in the English speaking world founded 160 years ago. Today we are a small but truly international community, attracting students from as far as China and India, North and South America, Southern Africa as well as Europe.

From an academic perspective, we have developed and continue to maintain close links with other similar institutions worldwide including Guelph in Canada; Lincoln in New Zealand, Utah and Arizona Universities, USA as well as in China, Japan and Vietnam. Today, we offer a wide-range of rural degree programmes, at all levels many with an international component, in agriculture, food and agri-business, equine science and rural estate, land management and property.

Recently the College, as the lead university in the region for rural studies, has been working closely with the WVLLN and a consortium of local HE and FE institutions to widen access and participation across the region to provide students from all backgrounds with the opportunity to develop careers in the rural sector. To this end, a new Foundation Degree programme is currently under development in Environmental Conservation and Heritage Management offering flexible study pathways for school leavers / career changers.

The FdSc programme is specifically being designed as a stepping stone for the more vocationally-minded students to progress to a BSc (Honours) level and possible professional accreditation. Its aim is to ensure that students will have the confidence to “step up to the mark” through its mix of the academic, managerial and practical within a genuine working environment.

What more appropriate maxim could there be for a College which, in every facet of its teaching, now incorporates a wider understanding of our countryside than 'Avorum Cultus Pecorumque' or 'Caring for the Fields and the Beasts'.

University of the West of England

University of the West of England: WVLLN

UWE is a partnership university. We are at the hub of some truly dynamic and engaging collaborations that have a real impact on the world around us, both in terms of research and the student experience. Our close partnerships in the public, private and community sectors have enabled UWE to lead the way among modern universities in the breadth and quality of our research and scholarship. This means we are able to tackle some of the big issues facing society, e.g. climate change and health, bio-sensing technology, transport and planning, and the future interactions between humans and robots. We are engaging with these and other key issues through our research, and importantly, by addressing skills shortages.

At UWE we aim to ensure that our areas of world-class research feed into a high quality curriculum and student experience. We work closely with our partners to make sure the UWE experience is one that prepares our students for work and life after graduation. For example, programmes such as Aerospace Design Engineering and Radiotherapy have been supported by simulation equipment from employers. Our Graduate Development Programme for all undergraduates, placement opportunities, degree shows and the project work for UWE students, all contribute to enabling UWE graduates to be 'ready+able' with the skills and experience employers need. 

We are also working with partners to raise aspirations and increase participation in higher education. UWE has over 350 partnerships with schools and colleges and we were the first to sponsor a City Academy in 2002. We have developed a framework for flexible learning opportunities which places the learner at the centre (the shell Award Framework) and enables the integration of short courses/CPD and experiental learning into an HE qualification, whether delivered at UWE or in another regional HE provider. Finally, in the last two years the University has also built a network of 14 further education partners (the UWE Federation) bringing higher education opportunities closer to users and offering over fifty foundation degree programmes.


Open University South West

Open University South West: WVLLN

The Open University is a university that makes learning open to all, regardless of age, ability or background. It promotes educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential. Through academic research, pedagogic innovation and collaborative partnership it seeks to be a world leader in the design, content and delivery of supported open and distance learning. 

Since it started in 1969, over 2 million people have studied with the OU, collectively achieving over 625,000 qualifications. Not only is it the biggest UK university (with over 200,000 students each year), but its students also continuously vote it one of the best. For the last four years The Open University has been rated in the top two universities in The National Student Satisfaction Survey. 

The OU offers over 750 inspirational courses which can lead to nearly 250 highly respected qualifications, including certificates, diplomas and degrees. Students can follow a focused course pathway to gain a degree in a named subject, or mix and match courses from different subjects to achieve an Open degree.

The Open University is a vibrant academic community that combines excellence in teaching, research and logistics to provide a unique brand of supported open and distance learning.

The OU is a "local" university having 13 regional offices and 350 study centres across the UK. The South West of England is served by the OU Regional Centre based in the centre of Bristol, from which support, advice and guidance are provided to students living throughout the South West. 

The Open University in the South West has made a major contribution to the development of the WVLLN's Lifepilot website, which is designed primarily to help working adults make the transistion to higher education. This has mainly involved producing a range of materials to help prepare learners for study and work, which have been adapted from the Open University's open educational resources which can be found on