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Telegraph View: Masterplan for a new era

Richard Blackledge
Richard Blackledge

Sheffield Hallam University is making plans for a new era. As the Telegraph reports on this week’s front page, a 15-year strategy has been drawn up that involves a transformation of the university’s city centre campus, with new buildings, refurbishments and other developments on the way.

The first phase alone, bringing facilities for the business school and social sciences, will cost £220 million – a substantial outlay, but one Hallam thinks is necessary to achieve its bold aim of becoming the world’s leading ‘applied university’. What this means in practice is a place specialising in courses that equip people for jobs and careers, along with research that directly addresses the cultural, economic and social challenges facing society today.

It is reassuring to see Hallam begin to shape its own destiny. Both Sheffield universities play a huge role in driving the city forward

As Hallam’s bosses will know only too well, universities are at something of a crossroads.

A review of tuition fees has been launched by the Government. Scrapping charges is ruled out, but the next scheduled increase in fees has been frozen, and the Prime Minister has signalled her determination to boost competition in the sector – reasoning that, if every degree costs each student £9,250 per year, the price is arbitrary and bears no relation to a course’s true expensiveness or quality.

A new regulator – the Office for Students – is charged with ensuring value for money, and there are doubts around student recruitment levels in the coming years.

Worries about the number of overseas candidates coming to Sheffield are less of a concern for Hallam; it is mostly populated by UK students, a good proportion of them local. But the university needs to have the edge on other cities if there is a dip and the pool of recruits becomes smaller.

It is reassuring to see Hallam begin to shape its own destiny. Both Sheffield universities play a huge role in driving the city forward and a future without them doesn’t bear thinking about.