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Wapping: How Northeastern University London is set to grow at St Katharine Docks

Expansion is on the agenda as seat of learning prepares to launch dually validated degrees in 2023

Northeastern University London is based at Devon House in St Katharine Docks
Northeastern University London is based at Devon House in St Katharine Docks

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“I want studying here to be filled with new experiences, meeting people and fun – a place which our students will remember as one where they grew intellectually, socially and personally and which allowed them to have choices,” said Rob Farquharson, CEO of Northeastern University London (NU London).

Founded in 2012 by the philosopher and writer AC Grayling as the New College Of The Humanities (NCH), the institution has been through a period of growth and development in a relatively short space of time – not least its arrival at St Katharine Docks.

In 2019 it was acquired by Northeastern University, an American seat of learning based in Boston, but with 11 regional campuses in the US and a clear mission to expand globally.

Then in 2020, NCH was first granted the right to award its own degrees and then to legally call itself a university – both after lengthy assessment processes.

Having outgrown its original premises in Bloomsbury, in 2021 it moved to Devon House – a modern warehouse-style building on the banks of the Thames overlooking Tower Bridge. 

It’s an apt location on the site of the historic Bull’s Head pub where it’s not impossible to imagine thirsty Brits finding refreshment as they prepared to emigrate to America over the Atlantic from the nearby docks.

Today, NU London’s presence represents fresh connection between the area and the US, as it looks to the future with the sensitive retirement of the NCH name.

Northeastern University London CEO Rob Farquharson
Northeastern University London CEO Rob Farquharson

“Boston and London are the two pre-eminent seats of higher education in the world,” said Rob.

“One of Northeastern’s key drivers is international expansion – being able to offer its students and staff a global experience.

“You have to connect with the world and understand it to make a positive impact and Northeastern doesn’t want to be constrained by a single location.

“We’re the first campus outside North America, but I can guarantee we won’t be the last. Northeastern wants to have a global student body and to give people the opportunity to study in different locations and experience different cultures – you need to have that physical presence on the ground to facilitate that.

“We moved to St Katherine Docks for more space and we’re just about to take another building here for use as office space so we can grow even further.

“We’ve added a lot of non-humanities, non-social science subjects to the ones we already teach – we now offer courses in business, engineering, chemistry and physics, for example. 

“There’s a big emphasis on artificial intelligence, partly because that bridges the history we have in humanities and the strengths Northeastern has in Boston, such as computer science and data science.

“At the moment we have about 1,200 students in London and we aim to have about 1,500 by the end of the year.

“In September 2023, we’ll be launching dually validated degrees, which we’re very excited about. It means students will be studying for degrees that are accredited in both the UK and the US.

“The structure for those at the moment is that in the second semester of the second year, students will have the option to study in North America – in Boston or at a West Coast campus, although it’s not compulsory.

The university boasts extensive facilities at Devon House
The university boasts extensive facilities at Devon House

“Students will also be able to do a fourth year in the US as their degrees tend to be four years and there will be an option to do a masters there too.

“One of the reasons we need more space is so we can create facilities such as wet labs for students who want to come over here from the US to study as part of their course. 

“We won’t be able to cover the full range of courses they have in Boston, but we do want to allow students to have some time in London and we want to be able to support them.”

At present, NU London offers undergraduate degrees, masters degrees and apprenticeship courses designed to help businesses develop their workforces.

NU London is also eager to play its part in the local community as it grows and expands its offering, whether that’s welcoming local residents on its degree courses or helping others gain new skills.

“We have students with us who are residents of Tower Hamlets, but we’re keen to get local people from all the boroughs around here and we want to be a valued member of the community,” said Rob.

“If anyone has any ideas how we can do that, then we’re more than happy to hear from them.

“One thing that we do is work with the GLA and the Department For Education to run free digital boot camps. These are open nationwide, but we’re particularly keen for local residents to join.

“The next one starts in January and it’s a 13-week programme for people aged 19 and over, to help them understand a bit more about the digital skills they may need for a career or a new or different job.”

The boot camp is run in partnership with cloud platform ServiceNow, which counts government agencies, prominent consultancies and major brands among its clients.

“We love being here at St Katharine Docks,” said Rob. “It’s a little oasis – close enough to the busy areas of the City, The Highway and Commercial Road if you want to go there, but quiet so you can study.

NUL moved to St Katharine Docks in 2021

“We feel we’ve become part of the community but hope to go further still.

“One of our key priorities is widening participation, to make sure that under-represented groups have the ability, the ambition and the understanding to be able to go to university.

“We have staff whose job it is to spread the word locally.

“They visit primary schools, secondary schools and colleges in Tower Hamlets and other boroughs to demystify university – especially for those whose family members have not been.

“We want them to know that they can come here, meet a diverse group of people and have choices.

“Some might want to make money in financial services while others might want to be social workers.

“What we want is to give them the ability to make those choices.

“Once they are here, we have a careers team that supports students from the practical side of things – writing CVs and interviews – through to clubs and societies.

“We’ve just launched an entrepreneur club, which will bring in recent graduates who have started businesses as well as people from funding organisations.

“We also have programmes which give students an idea of how businesses work. Your passion might be English Literature, but it’s useful to know other things as well.

“You may want to be an English professor, but that involves working at a university, which is a business that pays people and spends a budget – It’s about having that depth.”

NU London is set to host an open day for prospective students on November 26, 2022.

NUL is expanding its offering as it prepares to launch dual UK and US degrees

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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 jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Stepney: How the Attlee A Level Academy achieved record-breaking exam results

The New City College east London campus is celebrating a 15% rise in its A Level pass rate

Image shows the main entrance to New City College's Attlee A Level Academy in Stepney, an Edwardian building in east London
New City College’s Attlee A Level Academy in Stepney

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Read the comments of its students below and the secret to the recent success of New City College’s Attlee A Level Academy becomes obvious.

Young people clearly relish the teaching they receive and the environment provided for them to learn in.

Located on the eastern side of leafy Arbour Square, just off Commercial Road and round the corner from Troxy, the academy occupies the fine Edwardian building that once housed Raine’s School. 

Most recently rebranded with the blessing of former prime minister Clement Attlee’s family in 2018, in 2022 it achieved record-breaking figures with a 15% rise in A Level pass rates and a 12% increase in students awarded higher grades over the last four years.

In total, 125 students achieved 371 A Levels between them.

“We’re really, really pleased with the results,” said Janet Smith, New City College principal with responsibility for A Levels across its operation.

“Attlee was formed by merging provision that was in Tower Hamlets and Hackney at this site – that started a journey of pulling it all together and really improving things.

“Then we got caught up in the pandemic with students getting centre-assessed grades, but these results really validate the work we’ve been doing to build high quality provision.

“Since that pre-pandemic merger, we’ve improved by 15% and that starts to establish us as a high-performing centre for Tower Hamlets.

“We offer the widest range of A Levels in the borough – it’s a great selection – and we’re particularly good at the sciences and helping the progression of our students into university to study courses such as medicine.

Image shows Janet Smith, a woman with dyed red hair, wearing rimless glasses and gold earrings set with green stones
New City College principal Janet Smith
New City College principal Janet Smith

“During the pandemic, the whole senior leadership team got involved to make sure we weren’t just inflating grades, that what we were doing was valid and we can now go on with the confidence that we avoided doing that.

“We’re particularly pleased that we’ve got 11 subjects here where all of the students who took the exam passed – that’s quite phenomenal.

“These are tricky subjects – business studies, politics, physics, media studies, psychology and sociology – and really significant numbers of high grades.”

Group principal and CEO at New City College, Gerry McDonald, said while many colleges no longer offered A Levels due to the “hard, competitive” nature of the market, Attlee had been created to focus on the student experience to ensure the academy continued to be seen as a first choice for students as opposed to staying on in school sixth forms.

“These results show we made the right decision to create the academy,” he said.

“We have a broad, broad offer with subjects like classical civilisation, which you wouldn’t find in a school, but also fantastic links to universities such as Queen Mary.

“Our teachers are mostly A Level specialists – they understand the syllabuses really well and some have been involved in developing them and are examiners too, so they understand how to support our students. Now our focus is on helping them achieve those higher grades.”

Image shows Gerry McDonald, a white-haired man with black-rimmed spectacles in a blue suit and white shirt
Gerry is group principal and CEO of New City College
Gerry McDonald is group principal and CEO of New City College

Janet said the attraction for those looking to study at Attlee was two-fold.

“There’s the academic side with a breadth of offer and lots of other students, so people can really learn from each other,” she said.

“You might be in a group of 20 and that’s a really rich cohort to work with.

“Then we have very strong links with industry so we offer internships and programmes that may not be what students would be able to get in a school.”

Gerry added: “There’s also the maturity of environment. Our students won’t get the sort of support they have at a school when they go to university.

“Coming to Attlee helps them prepare for that by making them more resilient, independent learners, while also allowing them to mix with different groups of people, rather than moving up with their Year 11 cohort.

“Helping our students progress is a really important part of what we do and, because Attlee is part of a large college, there’s a wealth resource that we can draw on in terms of teaching.

“As staff, we work hard to develop our teaching skills – all of the senior team still do some teaching – and our expectation is that teachers understand that they are role models. It’s about the enthusiasm we have for our subjects, not just about the exam, but developing those broader interests in our students. That’s what our passion is.”

Enrolment for the latest cohort of Year 12 students at Attlee A Level Academy runs until September 3, 2022.

New City College operates across nine campuses in east London including facilities in Hackney, Epping Forest, Havering, Rainham, Redbridge and Illford.

CASE STUDIES: NEW CITY COLLEGE

Image shows Naima El Hallili Kintlerova – a young woman with dyed red hair, wearing a black top.
Naima moved to New City College from George Green's School
Naima moved to New City College from George Green’s School
  • Naima El Hallili Kintlerova
  • Law A, History B, Psychology B
  • Future – Naima has a place at Royal Holloway University Of London to study history

Isle Of Dogs resident Naima was a pupil at George Green’s School before joining New City College’s Attlee A Level Academy to take her studies further after taking her GCSEs.

She said: “I was looking at colleges and this place just came up. I liked that it was local, so I went to an open day. I liked how friendly the teachers were, how they made me feel at ease.

“They have an open-door policy here so if you have a question, you can just go into the staff room and ask.

“It’s not formal, you don’t have to call the teachers miss or sir – it’s all on a first name basis and I liked that.

“I enjoyed coming to college more than school because you have that rapport with the teachers – it’s more like a community and it’s very supportive.

“I never used to be as confident as I am now with things like speaking in public – coming to this college has allowed me to make new friends, be comfortable with myself and speak up.

“I feel a lot of my confidence is because I came here and met a lot of people from different countries and cultures.

“The college gives you a lot of opportunities – you get to work at the academy, get paid and have access to internships.

“I had one with a bank and now I have a mentor who is there for the next few years to help me with things like writing a CV.

“Even from GCSE level I’ve liked history. I thought about doing law at university for a second, but you can always take a legal route later on.

“At college my history teacher was really kind and made the lessons really interesting.

“He was so helpful with exams and coursework and in the end it’s all paid off because I got a place at Royal Holloway.

“I’ve thought about becoming a historian, maybe doing a masters and a PhD, but I still have a few years to decide.” 

Image shows Geovanny Rodriguez, a young dark-haired man with pierced ears wearing a black shirt and white T-shirt
Geovanny studied at New City College between ages 14 and 18
Geovanny studied at New City College between ages 14 and 18
  • Geovanny Rodriguez
  • Business A, Psychology A, English Lit B
  • Geovanny has a place at the University Of St Andrew’s in Scotland to study economics and management

North London resident Geovanny has had a less typical route into studying A Levels at New City College, having joined the institution aged 14 pretty much unable to speak English.

He said: “I’m originally from Colombia, but I moved to Spain when I was about 13, then I stayed there for a year and then came to the UK.

“ First I attended the college’s section for those aged 14-16 who don’t know how to speak English.

“Then I came to the Attlee A Level Academy and now I’m going on to study economics and management at St Andrews.

“I chose it because it’s a really good university and I liked the experience of going to Scotland.

“Unlike Naima I don’t have a passion for a subject like history, but studying business is good because it opens doors.

“My idea is to have a stable income and also to do my own thing with photography and clothes.

“Studying at New City College has been great.

“At first I didn’t really know anyone but then I found friends and I had a really good connection with the teachers. 

“The college also allowed me to run a pop-up shop and I donated 20% of the proceeds to charity.

“I take pictures of the things I like, not focusing on anything specific, just weird things I see as I go round.

“I’d definitely recommend the college as a place to study. It’s more like a community than a college because everyone knows each other. 

“While I live in North London, it’s totally worth the commute here to find supportive and helpful teachers – they were always there when I needed anything.

“It’s also good to come to a completely different area to the place that you live and to have that contrast to your life at home.”

Read more: How Blackout Dance Camp is rolling out London services

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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 jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Leamouth: Faraday Prep School seeks pupils to apply for supported place

Fishmongers Faraday Award covers up to 100% of fees at Trinity Buoy Wharf-based independent

The Fishmongers Faraday Award application deadline is April 18

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Children in Years 2 or 3 who show academic promise are being encouraged to apply for the Fishmongers Faraday Award by April 18.

The scheme, now in its fifth year, is open to candidates who would not otherwise be able to afford an independent education and covers up to 100% of school fees for one place at Faraday Prep School at Trinity Buoy Wharf in Leamouth.

Funded by the Fishmongers’ Livery Company, the award may also contribute to the cost of after school clubs, the school bus and school trips. The current scheme will support a place for a child to attend Faraday from September 2022. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity to join a growing and exciting prep school for those who might not otherwise be able to attend,” said head Lucas Motion.

“We want the children who receive it over the years to reap the benefits of what we offer here at Faraday.

“We’re a small, independent school, with just over 100 children. All of our systems are geared around individual attention so that we can really nurture, inspire and give children more support when they need it, and provide some stretch and challenge where they need that.

“We have small class sizes, with an average of 14 children.

“From Reception all the way up to Year 3, we have a teacher and a teaching assistant in each class, so we have a high ratio of adults to children to support that ethos.

Faraday Prep School head Lucas Motion with two of his pupils

“We put a lot of emphasis on high-quality interaction between staff and children, and having smaller class sizes really helps us to move them along.

“In terms of our vision and our values, they are all around nurturing children and delivering a good value education.

“I would also mention our broad and creative curriculum, which sets us apart and is certainly unique to Faraday.

“We teach much of the National Curriculum alongside a core knowledge curriculum and we have five specialist subjects, which are taught from Reception all the way up to Year 6 – French, music, dance, drama and sport.

“For example, we have a dedicated specialist sports teacher who is with the children all through their time at the school so they have the benefit of that – it’s a great model to help inspire them.

“An emphasis on high-quality English and Maths is always essential, and I think that, for that reason in primary, sometimes, the more creative subjects can take more of a back seat, but we’re committed to keeping them in the timetable throughout.”

Average class sizes at Faraday Prep School are 14 pupils

Lucas, who was born in Hackney and now lives in Leytonstone, arrived at Faraday in January this year, having previously held the post of deputy head at its sister institution – Maple Walk Prep School in Harlesden.

He said: “I came across when the previous head, Claire Murdoch, became head at Maple Walk, so essentially we swapped over. That’s made the transition quite smooth and natural because the values and ethos of the two schools are the same. 

“Faraday is in an unusual situation – our playground is on a bend of the River Lea – but a real highlight in my first term here has been reaching out to the community at Trinity Buoy Wharf – it’s such a collaborative and creative place.

“I want to continue the work Claire has done here, because she’s done an amazing job. I want to build on that.

“We’re currently a one form entry school except in our current Reception class, where we have two – we’re on a journey of growth – and I feel really excited about where that might lead.”

Selection for the award will be based on interview and references.

Children will be asked to provide their most recent school report and will be asked to undertake a range of activities and assessments.

Appointments to visit the school before applications are made can be arranged. Help with filling out the means testing element of the application is also available.

Those who would like more information can call the school on 020 8965 7374

The school is based at Trinity Buoy Wharf in Leamouth

Read more: How JP Morgan and The Sutton Trust are boosting social mobility

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Isle Of Dogs: University Of Sunderland In London expands beyond Marsh Wall

Lynsey Bendon talks space at Harbour Exchange as growth follows increased student demand

Image shows the University Of Sunderland In London's Lynsey Bendon
The University Of Sunderland In London’s Lynsey Bendon

“We were shown a lot of different places, but this is where we want to be – it’s perfect – it works for us and it works for our students,” said Lynsey Bendon.

There’s excitement in the voice of the assistant director of operations and student experience at the University Of Sunderland In London as she talks about its expansion at Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs – a move that will allow it to keep up with demand for places while retaining the links it’s built in the area since its creation in 2012.

“It’s on the opposite side of the DLR tracks to our Marsh Wall site, so it’s very close by,” said Lynsey. “We’ve been able to start with a blank canvas to design what we need as a teaching space.

“It has flexible rooms and it’s a lovely environment in terms of group and study areas. We’ve listened to what our students need and want – everything down to having a kitchen that’s really accessible where they can make their own food but also meet with staff. We’re thrilled.

“It’s also really nice to be able to grow from where we are because the students love our location next to Canary Wharf and our connections to local businesses but also the food, culture and shopping.”

The expansion of the campus, which will see the university taking a whole floor at Harbour Exchange, has been driven by significant demand. 

More than 4,400 students attended courses at its Marsh Wall base over the past year, with 2,794 joining across four intakes since March 2020.

While about 10% are international – reflecting perhaps the university’s outward-looking stance, having opened a Hong Kong campus in 2017 – about 50% are drawn from nearby London boroughs.

“Our students are what we call in the industry ‘non-traditional’,” said Lynsey. ”The average age is 36 and we have 60-40 female to male split. 

“Our motto is that we’re a life-changing university and we like to think that our people don’t necessarily come to us straight from school, but with a measured decision that they want their lives to change, which we hope to facilitate.

“We quickly realised there was a demand here in London and we tailor our courses to our students – we don’t expect them to be 18, straight out of school.

“We expect them to have experience that they can talk about and build on. When we started, some of the courses were targeted that way, but we’ve rewritten them and developed them through talking to our students to meet their needs.

“Ultimately we want them to progress, we want them to do the best they can for themselves and to fulfil their potential.

“You can’t just teach something – you have to build it around them. Our students are very vocal, which is extremely helpful when you work in the role I do, because you need ongoing conversations. We want to be there, supporting them, to help them succeed.”

Lynsey, who joined the University Of Sunderland In London in January 2020, is well placed to have those conversations, having left school after her A-Levels.

She said: “I was then unemployed for a short time before going into the workforce. I worked in banking in London in the 1990s, which was a very interesting time. When I came to have my children, I realised that it wasn’t a career I could stay in, so I left the workforce for a bit.

“Then I went back as a part-time member of staff on the help desk at the University Of East London. After a few years I specialised as an international student adviser before joining London Metropolitan University as compliance and immigration manager in 2014.

“That was challenging and taught me a lot – but I realised that I wasn’t going to progress further in my career without higher qualifications and at that point I was very lucky to be able to participate in a postgraduate certificate through my employer at that time, with the University Of Nottingham.

“So I was there, at 39, looking at a blank sheet of paper, never having done a first degree, absolutely out of my depth, and I can completely relate to our students, when they get to that point.

“But it gave me so much, some fantastic experiences and it taught me so much academically – both how to write reports and also all those things you don’t necessarily associate with academic learning. It also gave me so much confidence that I could do these things.

“I always say the tears were worth it, but I had such a good time, it outweighed any difficulties and it enabled me to go into management.

“So, after becoming the international immigration manager at London Met, I became head of student services and, in January, came here. Then lockdown happened in March, so it’s been quite a year. I had to learn quickly because I’m also the Covid lead for the London campus.

“Fortunately, it’s a really vibrant place, and a really great community, so people were very forgiving when I asked the same question for the sixth or seventh time, because I didn’t quite understand what went where.

“Our student growth over the years has been pretty consistent so I don’t think our current figures are down to people looking for a new direction just as a result of Covid.

“In our admissions process, we speak to each student individually and help them to make sure they are taking the right decision for them.

“The pandemic has shown us aspects of strength in our teaching and other areas where we’ve been forced to introduce things that we’re going to keep. We’re lucky that we get lots of people coming to us through word-of-mouth – Mr X may come to sign up with us in September and then Mrs X will follow in April – and you only really get that if you’re giving people what they want and the best tools for success.”

The University Of Sunderland in London offers courses across four main areas – business and finance; tourism, hospitality and events; nursing and health and engineering at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The campus also offers Master Of Business Administration degrees – MBAs.

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