University status awarded to colleges in Devon and Cornwall
The Westcountry has been granted two new universities, with specialist institutions poised to be upgraded by the Government.
University College Falmouth will be known simply as "Falmouth University", and will be Cornwall's first fully-fledged university.
University College Plymouth St Mark and St John – known locally as Marjon – has also met criteria to be awarded the new status.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills yesterday recommended the changes to the Queen's Privy Council, which is almost certain to approve them.
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The upgraded status is a hallmark of quality in the higher education sector and will boost the appeal of the institutions, especially in the lucrative international market.
Universities Minister David Willetts announced ten establishments would be given the new titles under the first wave of universities since 1992.
Founded in 1902 as a small art school, Falmouth has seen student numbers triple to more than 4,000 in the last decade and has benefited from more than £100 million of investment in two campuses in Falmouth and nearby Penryn.
Today it is renowned as a multi-arts university offering art, media and performance, and wants to be one of the top five arts universities in the world.
Falmouth's rector and chief executive, Professor Anne Carlisle, said: "Achieving full university title has been one of our key goals and speaks volumes for the quality of our teaching, facilities and governance. It is also the culmination of the efforts of many in Cornwall who have supported our aspirations over several years.We want to develop the creative industries sector and bring creativity to other industries, and our students graduate with the confidence that they are joining one of the most buoyant employment markets in the world." The Combined Universities in Cornwall, which opened in the last decade to offer higher education, does not award its own degrees.
Marjon began life in London, moving to Plymouth in 1973, and boasts specialisms in sport and education, including teacher training. It has about 3,000 students.
Acting principal Karen Cook said: "University title marks a fantastic realisation not only for all students, staff, and supporters but also for our local communities and partners, nationally and internationally.
"However, university title will not mark the end of the journey for Marjon. Rather, it heralds the start of a process which will see us develop further as an innovative model of a high-quality, smaller university.
"Smaller institutions have long offered greater agility, smaller classes, stronger graduate employment and better retention rates – and we punch above our weight."
The Government says the changes are part of a drive to promote diversity in the university sector which will improve standards and student choice. Previously, to be called a university, an institution needed to have 4,000 full-time students, and meet other criteria, but now the student threshold has been dropped to 1,000.