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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

Read more: How Disney 100: The Exhibition celebrates a century of history in Royal Docks

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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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Isle Of Dogs: Personal injury lawyer secures £1.25million settlement for client

Kidd Rapinet Solicitors’ Vashti Prescott explains the importance of seeking legal advice after an injury

Vashti Prescott is a personal injury lawyer at Kidd Rapinet
Vashti Prescott is a personal injury lawyer at Kidd Rapinet – image Matt Grayson

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Mohamed Morad didn’t know when he put his helmet on and climbed onto his motorbike on a summer’s day in 2016 that his life would change forever.

Born and bred in Egypt but with an Italian passport through his mother, he’d travelled to the UK in May 2015 in the hope of earning money to support his wife and child and their unborn baby.

With no home of his own he led a life taking odd jobs in bars and restaurants, sleeping on friends’ floors and sofas or paying for nights in budget hotels.

It was while working as a fast food delivery driver on that June day that disaster struck. A taxi pulled over illegally to drop off its fare and the passenger opened the rear door of the vehicle directly into Mohamed’s path.

It was the moment those riding bicycles and motorbikes on London’s streets live in fear of – an unexpected obstacle with no hope of avoiding it. 

Mohamed was knocked off his bike, sustaining very severe injuries that, after extensive surgery, left him permanently in a wheelchair with one leg stretched out in front of him. 

He developed chronic pain syndrome and remains on a cocktail of daily medication. He has suffered bouts of severe depression, often contemplating whether to take his own life.

Medical experts have unanimously agreed that nothing further can be done to ease his physical condition save an above the knee amputation, which for religious reasons Mohamed won’t consent to. His story is a snapshot of a life shattered in an instant by terrible injury.

The fight to get Mohamed compensation has been long and complex but, five years after his accident, Isle Of Dogs-based Kidd Rapinet Solicitors settled his claim for £1.25million this year – an amount that recognises that he will never work again.

Personal injury lawyer Vashti Prescott, who represented him, said: “Since his accident Mohamed has been reliant on other people for all of his basic needs.

“During the height of lockdown he went days alone in his apartment unwashed and dependent on volunteers to bring him food. 

“He lived in squalor and, in addition to the difficulties of his physical condition he has really severe psychological problems. He knows his wife and children are overseas and he hasn’t even seen the younger child other than by talking to them daily on his phone.

“Ahead of the conclusion of the claim and with the help of Kidd Rapinet’s immigration department we managed to bring Mohamed’s family to the UK in March.”

This however was deemed to be a change in circumstances by the Government which stopped his benefits, putting enormous financial pressure on the family.

“Mohamed wanted to settle for £1.25million and while the process has been long and difficult, we hope the outcome will help him and his family,” said Vashti.

“We will assist him in investing the compensation to ensure funds last well into his future.”

The Met Police report allowed the parties involved to be identified
The Met Police report allowed the parties involved to be identified

Kidd Rapinet, which has offices at Harbour Exchange, is sharing Mohamed’s story to raise awareness of the role lawyers can play in similar situations to ensure those who suffer injuries through no fault of their own receive the compensation that they deserve.

“They should immediately seek legal advice,” said Vashti. “If something like this does happen to you, it’s important to document your injuries in as much detail as possible.

“Keep a pain dairy. The way you feel changes overtime. You might have very severe acute pain, which might then become a dull ache. It’s important to be clear how an injury and its symptoms affect you and to record that.

“Compensation is not just based on the nature of an injury – one person might break their leg and make a fairly quick recovery.

“Another might sprain their ankle but then suffer symptoms that affect them on a day-to-day basis for much longer. In this case the second person would get more compensation.

“Also document medication, not just the kind of medicines but the dosages and how they change. People should also keep a record of losses as all this information will be useful to your lawyers later on.”

“A solicitor will look at your claim, make an assessment and decide whether they will take it on a no-win, no-fee basis.

“If they do decide to take on the claim it simply means they will act for you. If successful, they will then take a fee, which is capped by law at 25%, although we only charge 20%.

“That fee is only payable on past losses and pain and suffering. All of a client’s future losses, which in Mohamed’s case, for example, were a large proportion of the £1.25million, are ring-fenced.

“Had we not been successful in his claim, we would not have charged him anything at all.

“In Mohamed’s case we applied for the police report into the accident and we used that information to identify the various parties involved.

“That enabled us to bring a claim against the taxi’s insurance company, having established the vehicle had pulled over where it shouldn’t have done.

“You don’t just claim compensation for the injury – you look at loss of earnings, care costs and the hidden costs incurred as a result of it.

“The more serious a claim, generally speaking, the longer it will take. Normally by about three years the doctors know where you stand with a serious injury and whether there’s anything more that they can do for you or might be done to improve your prognosis.”

A solicitor will then fight your corner for the best possible level of compensation on the merits of the individual case. 

Vashti said she felt the law should go further for awards over a certain level, making it a legal requirement for a court-appointed, independent financial advisor to help claimants to ensure they invest the money they get sensibly to ensure it fulfils its purpose.

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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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