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A web that spans the West Midlands

Staffordshire University has developed a web of links with 33 colleges across the West Midlands, one of the most comprehensive networks of its kind.

The aim is to build a regional university through a network of partnerships with colleges.

Linkages involve everything from franchised HNC and HND courses carried out at a college under the university's auspices, to formal associate and federated status.

Staffordshire is even involved in a joint venture to build a seamless FE and HE centre, the Pounds 3.2 million Lichfield University Campus, in an equal partnership with Tamworth and Lichfield Colleges.

The decade-old structure has extended to jointly taught courses, staff collaboration, new foundation programmes to help students gain access to higher education and sophisticated computer links, sharing access to high technology teaching aids tailored to both further and higher level courses.

Colleges join the university in marketing drives for courses.

And a series of compacts with the university wins students grade "discounts" when they apply if they gain key skills approved by academics.

Staffordshire currently recruits around half its students from within the West Midlands, and uses its links with colleges to help recruitment, although vice-chancellor Christine King insists the aim is to help the local community, raise standards in FE and HE and encourage people into higher education generally.

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