Since opening in 2009, the Burnley campus of the University of Central Lancashire has become home to 950 students and saw applications rise by 150% in the past year, says director Martin Brown.
The rise in applications reflects a number of factors, explains Brown. "The increase is partly due to students that didn't get in last year reapplying. Also, people that have taken a year off are now deciding not to have a gap year and applying earlier to avoid the higher tuition fees coming in during 2012."
The 1,100 capacity of the £11m UCLan campus in the town could even be exceeded in 2012 as the number of part-time students grows, adds Brown. The 150% rise compares to a rise nationally of 7% according to the Universities & Colleges Admissions Service.
Browns adds: "We are ecstatic at the response since we have opened. We didn't know quite what would happen as there is not much of a benchmark for a university having such a base in another location. The facilities are first class and the university has put an awful lot into the Burnley campus."
The Burnley campus was part of an £85m development that opened in 2009 and includes extensive facilities for Burnley College, itself a long-time partner of UCLan, providing courses for around 25 years on a franchised basis before the permanent outpost opened. Brown adds: "The increase in numbers also reflects the fact we are getting more well known and becoming a bigger part of the town."
Courses at the campus range from those aimed at industry sectors that are strong in the Burnley area such as fashion and advanced manufacturing but also include general subjects such as law and business.
The campus is aimed at vocational courses that will help create jobs for local students. By being in the same building as Burnley College, albeit with its own wing, it is hoped the path from A-Levels to further and higher education can be a smooth and logical one for students.
Brown is keen to use UCLan's expertise in enterprise activity to engage with Burnley employers. The planned Knowledge Park next door to the campus will be a key part of that. UCLan will be a partner in the initial incubation building where start-up companies will be based.
UCLan has been ranked top in the region and in the top five nationally for student/graduate start up businesses for the past three years. More than 140 innovation vouchers have been used by industry to tap into the university's academics over the past few years via a North West Development Agency scheme. The university also delivers more training days to business than any other higher education institution in the North West.
In Burnley, UCLan is working with 18 business leaders from companies in and around the town in its LEAD networking and mentoring programme.
In another initiative, Burnley Enterprise Development Programme has been developed with Business in the Community, one of Prince Charles's charities, to provide a series of inspirational speakers to 20 high growth potential businesses in Burnley and Pendle. Speakers have included Sinclair Beecham, chief executive of Prêt-a-Manger and Jonathon Warburton, chief executive of Warburtons Bakery.
Inside the existing Burnley campus building, UCLan has a business incubation room for 15 start-up businesses. There is also an advanced manufacturing centre, dubbed the factory of the future, where students and academics are collaborating with BAE Systems and Cisco Systems among others on developing commercial products.
There is also a scheme funded by the European Regional Development Fund to maximise the efficiency of small wind turbines, working with small firms and there are plans for a regional energy centre, with a base in Burnley, incorporating all renewable energy sources, further education training linked with Burnley College and HE research and development.
Brown adds: "The Pennine Lancashire economy is dominated by small firms and there is little in the way of big employers to work with on graduate placements. We work with small firms where graduates can make a bigger impression but we have to be more flexible because the resources for accommodating a graduate might not be as great as at a larger firm."
The Burnley campus has made a strong start in less than two years and it is only a matter of time before the first graduates move into the local economy and begin to make their own mark.