Sunday, May 26, 2024

Northern stars

Co-operation is the secret to the success of universities in the north of England, says Melanie Butler

Take a look at the three top universities in the rankings. What do they have in common? We have Manchester in first spot, then Sheffield and Edge Hill, which was recently declared Modern University of the Year in The Sunday Times.

All three of them are located in northern England, or ‘the North’, as it is more commonly known. Manchester is east of the Pennine Mountains, as is Edge Hill in nearby Ormskirk, while Sheffield is to the west in the historic county of Yorkshire.

In the same city lies Sheffield Hallam University, one of the UK’s largest and most diverse universities, as well as a stalwart of the Gazette rankings. Meanwhile, in the next-door city to Manchester, is the University of Salford. Both make it into our top university language centres.

In fact, if we add in the universities of Leeds, Teeside and Manchester Metropolitan, all of which appear in our top 100 listing, then an astonishing 73% of all the accredited universities in the region are EL Gazette Centres of Excellence, based on their inspection results.

The region, which runs from north of the Humber estuaries to the border of North Wales and up to Scotland, has long been famous for its universities and, in particular, the way they have always co-operated with each other. This is exemplified by the pathway programmes and English language tests run by NCUK, set up by a consortium of northern universities and now accepted by other universities around the world.

For over 30 years, many of the region’s universities joined an association, then called English in the North, which included local further education colleges and private language schools. This cross- sectoral cooperation, originally designed to attract students from the tourist hotspots in the south, has grown to create an environment offering ‘English courses for everybody’, where students with a low level of English study in a language school before joining a university pre-sessional course, while others take a foundation year in a local college before starting their undergraduate degree.

It’s perhaps not surprising that co-operation is at the root of the success of the northern universities’ language centres and the development of the region into a premier student destination. After all, in 1844 the Co-operative was founded in a little town called Rochdale in the north of England.

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Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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