Memorandum submitted by University College
University College Northampton is the only higher
education institution offering full and part-time undergraduate
and post-graduate qualifications in Northamptonshire, with close
to 7,000 full-time students and over 3,000 part-time students.
As part of the post-1992 university and university
college sector. University College Northampton has been funded
at much lower levels than the pre 1992 universities and therefore
has not built the reserves and property portfolio of those earlier
established universities. This has meant that the College has
had to look for exceptional value for money in its investments
in buildings and programmes and to be particularly open to co-operation
with local partners.
The under investment in the post-1992 universities
is illustrated in the relatively poorer sports facilities for
students in those institutions and yet those institutions have
done most to meet government targets for expanding number of students
in higher education.
As part of its commitment to the community,
University College Northampton sports scientists have been working
closely with local sports clubs to help their athletes meet their
potential. One such collaboration is between the College and Northampton
Northampton Swimming Club is one of the largest
clubs in the UK. It employs a team of professional coaching staff
and the Head Coach is an Olympic medal winner and a former British
Swimming Team Captain.
The club's success is illustrated by its recognition
on all four categories of the Amateur Swimming Association's (ASA)
new development programme for the 21st century (Swim 21). Northampton
is one of very few clubs in England that has been given Swim 21
recognition on all four categories of teaching, skill development,
competitive development and performance. With its swimming teaching
programme, the competitive programme and its large Masters (25
and over) swimming section, Northampton Swimming Club caters for
swimmers from five to 65 and older.
At present Northampton Swimming Club has to
make use of inadequate facilities prone to poor water quality
and frequent breakdowns or closure for repairs. Given the link
already established with the Club, an opportunity was identified
for University College Northampton and Northampton Swimming Club
to work together to develop a new swimming facility at the College's
Park campus. In addition, it was recognised that it was crucial
to involve Northampton Borough Council which operates three swimming
pools in the town (two of which are well past their expected life
span) and Northamptonshire County Council which is the local education
authority. This partnership was strengthened by the involvement
of other swimming clubs in the region who all expressed a strong
interest in being able to make use of a high quality facility
in Northampton to support their competitive training programmes.
It should be noted that there are a number of
LEA schools in the town which have their own swimming pools but
these are all over 20 years old and expensive to operate. The
LEA would recommend closure of these pools if there were sufficient
high-quality other facilities in the town.
In the USA, much of the development of excellence
in swimming is undertaken through the universities with high quality
facilities and endowments to support swimmers and coaching staff.
These universities are often linked with local clubs and high
schools, and swimmers have the benefit of gaining educational
qualifications at the same time as aiming for Olympic competition.
This approach has also been recognised by the Australian Institute
of Sport which was increased its link to educational programmes.
As well as the educational benefits to the swimmers,
the US model has the advantage of providing a much broader based
entry to elite level competition, allowing more swimmers to reach
their potential and attain Olympic level performance. In addition,
the very intense inter-university competitions in the USA provides
US swimmers with a competitive edge that gives them an advantage
in major international events.
Guaranteed operational funding over many years,
as is available at US universities through their substantial endowments
is unlikely to be available in the UK, but the link between major
swimming clubs, universities, local authorities and schools could
provide the necessary resources by bringing together their individual
contributions. This is the basis of the partnership that has been
established in Northampton.
What is therefore needed is a major investment
programme in providing high quality swimming facilities at universities.
There would have to be a requirement that funding would only be
available if the proposal is supported by a major swimming club
that already employs a professional coaching staff, the university
was prepared to share its facility and provide sports science
support, and that the proposal had the support of the local authority
and schools. It is necessary to ensure that the annual operating
costs are already largely in place through the existing activities
of the partners. In addition there would need to be a link to
Further Education Colleges to ensure educational opportunities
were available to all, and not just those qualified for university
It is also crucial that the investment is not
just into the pre-1992 universities, who may be better placed
to provide their own capital investment, as that would limit the
degree level educational opportunities to students with high A-level
This approach would lead to the creation of
perhaps 10 to 15 new 50m swimming pools in towns and cities in
England, as there are only a limited number of swimming clubs
with the resources to provide the necessary coaching support,
and some universities may not wish to release sufficient time
to support the clubs and schools. Our local swimming club does
have the necessary resources and the university is committed to
working with the swimming club, the local schools and with its
existing further education partners.
The development of the partnership in Northampton
provides an opportunity for University College Northampton to
provide a particularly good value-for-money development. The proposal
would help the promotion of exercise (lane) swimming for the community
(complementing the Borough Council provision and help improve
fitness and health in the community), help develop swimming education
in co-operation with the LEA, and support competitive swimming
in Northampton and the local region. It is intended to start a
fund-raising campaign in Spring 2002 but all of the partners recognise
that such fund raising is never easy. However, if the Culture,
Media and Sport Committee provide support for targeted investment
of capital resources to build high quality swimming pools at universities
and university colleges, the campaign would be more likely to
Adopting the strategy outlined above does need
investment in a number of universities (of different types) and
should only be offered to universities that have developed a local
partnership with major swimming clubs, schools, further education
colleges and local authorities, as that partnership will make
the investment highly cost effective.
I hope that this submission will help the Committee
in its important work in developing the Sport of Swimming and
provide an example of how partnerships between universities, swimming
clubs and local authorities could provide investment that would
offer exceptional value-for-money.
26 November 2001