The Silverton

Isle Of Dogs: How the Elizabeth School Of London is growing to serve more students

The institution offers a wide range of courses and has taken space at Harbour Exchange to host them

Professor Ian Luke of the Elizabeth School Of London

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The Elizabeth School Of London (ESL) is enjoying something of a boom.

A higher education provider, which delivers a range of courses on behalf of various institutions, it’s expanded to seven sites across the country supporting some 9,500 students.

Its operation includes campuses in Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester and Northampton as well as two in London.

Alongside its Holborn site, ESL recently moved into Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs with a second floor of the building already in the pipeline.

For the institution’s provost, Professor Ian Luke, himself a recent arrival, it’s a time of great opportunity for the organisation.

“The exciting part of ESL is that it’s in its infancy, so what I would like to see is it pushing the boundaries of teaching and giving students authentic experiences so they can immediately use what they’ve learnt in their careers or even during their time with us,” he said.

“Canary Wharf is an inspiring place, especially if you’re working in the sectors covered by our courses.

“The fact that students are working around multi-million pound companies, and we are creating links with those firms, is very special.”

ESL has a growing campus at Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs

ESL provides teaching and facilities on behalf of a number of organisations that act as awarding bodies on its courses.

These include Bath Spa University, St Mary’s University in Twickenham, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University Of Bolton and Newcastle College Group

It offers courses in the areas of business and management; finance and accounting; health and social care; construction and computing, attracting many students seeking a change of direction.

“We currently have about 9,500 students,” said Ian.

“Many are mature students who are looking to make a career change or who higher education may have passed by.

“For ESL, it’s all about providing access to opportunity.

“The joy of our system is that we haven’t got the infrastructural arrangements of a university.

“Most universities engage in research. But generally they will only receive at best 75% funding for those activities.

“We’re not a research institution, although we’re very much about scholarly research-informed teaching.

“That means all our resources can be focused on the students themselves rather than anything else – hence the investment in campuses such as Harbour Exchange.

The campus is arranged over one floor, with a second in the pipeline

“While many universities have fixed locations, ESL has the flexibility to go where its services are needed.

“The benefit to the student experience is incredibly positive and, for the partners we work with, it means they don’t have to invest in a new campus themselves in these locations.”

Part of Planet Education Networks, a collection of institutions based at Marsh Wall, ESL’s expansion has seen a whole floor of Harbour Exchange’s main building fully refurbished.

“There are IT suites, media rooms, lecture rooms, a canteen, break-out areas and even a Dragons’ Den-style pitching area,” said Ian.

“The whole place has been designed for the students to have fluidity in physical and digital resources. 

“Because we’re not trapped in campus buildings, we’ve been able to design this new facility for the way we want to teach students.

“One of the key things for us is that we’ve designed the actual timetable to support people.

“We understand that there’s a cost of living crisis and that many students have to work while they’re studying – we understand that they’re got care responsibilities.

“That’s why we operate over six days.

“Students get very focused work so they can manage their parental and other commitments.

“We also deliver evening and weekend sessions, so we try to make the timetable as bespoke for them as possible.

“What we’re delivering in terms of pedagogy is different to a university, in that we’re trying to tailor everything to an understanding of students’ lives, and more importantly, to their careers and employability afterwards.

“We know our students very, very well – who they are – and when that’s the case, you can cater for their needs.

“ESL is really about people who want to change their lives, and we’ve got the flexibility to help them do that.

“It’s crucial for us to be able to move with our students so we can offer something bespoke.”

This is all very much in Ian’s wheelhouse.

“With an academic and professional background in education, it’s no surprise he’s decided to join an institution where the importance of teaching is stated as a core value.

“I was deputy vice-chancellor at Plymouth Marjon University, a very small organisation down in the south-west, and I looked after everything there, apart from research – the academic schools, the quality of the teaching and the digital development,” he said. 

“London is a complete shift for me, but I was a teacher and my PhD and professorial were in learning and teaching so I’m hoping to bring that to ESL.

“I have an understanding of quality systems and how they work, and how to make them more robust.

“There’s something incredible happening here with ESL – there’s a very big demand for what it’s doing – and it’s very successful.

ESL boasts extensive facilities close to Canary Wharf

“The focus is heavily on the students – they want to come – so it’s up to us to manage that growth well for them.

“The joy of multiple institution awarding is that you get the best practice from everyone, and you can make sure that we represent the programmes.

“In doing so, we try to serve the community, individuals and their careers.

“We get a whole range of people coming to study with us – they are multicultural, often older and may be returning to higher education.

“ESL is rigorous in terms of the students it accepts to ensure we are recruiting people we think we can support appropriately. 

“Because the students are more mature, there is an engagement level here that not all universities experience. 

“The staff are very passionate and the students really want to make the most of these opportunities.

“It’s very inspiring for me in my role to see how they are working to grasp those at ESL.”

Typical yearly fees at ESL are £9,250.

Find more information about the Elizabeth School Of London here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via
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