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University College Falmouth awarded full university status

University College Falmouth is to be granted full university status in a move that will further its ambition to become one of the top five arts universities in the world.

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, today recognised Falmouth’s status as a full university following a rigorous appraisal process.

Subject to final Privy Council approval, University College Falmouth is expected to become Falmouth University by the end of 2012, and is Cornwall’s first university.

Over the last 10 years Falmouth has seen student numbers triple to more than 4,000 and has benefitted from more than £100 million of investment in world class facilities at its two campuses in Falmouth and nearby Penryn.

Having started life in 1902 as a small art school, today it is renowned as a multi-arts university in a global market offering art, design, media, performance and writing, boasting artist Tacita Dean, sculptor Tim Shaw and BBC broadcaster Hugh Pym among its alumni.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Falmouth’s Rector and Chief Executive, Professor Anne Carlisle, said: “Achieving full university title has been one of our key goals and speaks volumes for the quality of our teaching, facilities and governance. It is also the culmination of the efforts of many in Cornwall who have supported our aspirations over several years.

“This announcement will cement Falmouth University’s reputation for quality and innovation across all the art forms and further our drive to become one of the top five arts universities in the world.

“We want to develop the creative industries sector and bring creativity to other industries, and our students graduate with the confidence that they are joining one of the most buoyant employment markets in the world.”

The announcement has also been welcomed by Falmouth Town Mayor, Councillor Geoffrey Evans, who said: “Falmouth should be proud to be Cornwall's first official university town and this association is completely apt, complementing our vibrant and thriving community. We are proud to be the home of a learning institution that delivers all the art forms, unique to the UK.

“The Council recognises the substantial benefit of the investment that the university and its students bring to Falmouth. I am struck by the high number of graduates who set up their own businesses locally, enhancing our existing creative industries. Long may our association continue through this latest phase of the growth of our University.”

University status is seen as a hallmark of quality in the higher education sector and will boost Falmouth’s appeal, especially in the international market where it intends to quadruple its number of overseas students to more than 400 in the next few years.

It has recently launched a creative MBA programme to offer new types of creative skills and thinking to business and commerce, and has a range of partnerships with household names including BT, Sony, John Lewis, Virgin and Burberry, bringing creative approaches to new sectors through research, placements and internships.

Around 18% of Falmouth’s recent graduates have gone on to started their own business, which is six times the UK average, mainly in the creative industry sector.

Falmouth has benefitted from a significant share of more than £320 million of investment in higher education in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in the last decade, with some £100 million being spent on its own facilities.

October 2010 saw the opening of a new £19 million purpose-built performance centre following a merger with Dartington College of Arts. In May this year its £9m Academy for Innovation & Research opened, providing a research and innovation hub focused on sustainable design and the digital economy. This follows investment of £70 million in design, media and photography centres since 2004.

Falmouth has put research and innovation at the core of its activities and is at the cutting edge of the digital economy. An example is its partnership with BT to create superfast broadband laboratories that push the boundaries of new communications technology.

BT and the EU are investing £132 million to give Cornwall early access to superfast broadband and this investment is contributing to Cornwall having the largest concentration of creative industries companies in the UK outside London.

BT’s Ranulf Scarborough, Programme Director of the Cornwall Superfast Broadband Programme, said: “There are fantastic things happening with broadband in Cornwall and Falmouth University is at the cutting edge of how we use that technology.

“One of our projects is looking at how broadband can advance motion capture and character animation services for the film, television and gaming industries and that’s a terrific growth sector. University status is richly deserved and we look forward to continuing our collaboration.”

Falmouth University offers 45 courses from foundation to PhD level and was granted its own degree-awarding powers in 2004. It is among a number of specialist institutions in the UK that have been awarded university title.