Reporter 462, 26 February 2001

Merger in the first degree

The biggest merger in the history of the University - with Bretton Hall College - paves the way for the creation of a cultural axis of the North, with centres of excellence in fashion and design, music, drama and fine art.

It was a rocky road, but after some 30 months’ negotiation, merger plans were welcomed by the University’s governing body and warmly supported by the funding council. The future of Bretton is now secure as a national player in performance, the cultural industries and the arts. As University Chancellor Melvyn Bragg said: "Our ambition is to make Bretton the finest centre of excellence in the country so that its graduates will be superbly equipped to make a unique contribution to this nation’s rich and valuable artistic life."

National reputation – Bretton Hall

Under the terms of the merger, to take place on 1 August, up to 1,000 additional student places will be available over the next four years. It will enable Britain’s most popular university to extend provision and lead the way into new and innovative areas of visual and performing arts, design and education.

New programmes include popular and world music, Jewish civilisation, cultural theory and analysis, fine art cultural diversity and music theatre. Over £9m will be invested in accommodation, IT equipment and student services; provision at Bretton will be as good as those at Leeds. A new performance space will be built at Bretton by the summer of 2002.

Perfect harmony – the merger will bring together University expertise in theory with Bretton’s reputation in performance

At the heart of the merger is a new faculty of music, visual and performing arts, forged together by the University and Bretton and drawing upon existing strengths at both centres. The Bretton campus will become a specialist academy for performance, visual arts and sculpture, building on the strong relationship between Bretton Hall and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which has attracted significant European and lottery funding.

The merger with Bretton offers terrific opportunities, also, for the delivery of high quality education to local people. Wakefield will have a university centre of its own for the first time, with the Manygates site near the waterfront – already earmarked as a ‘cultural quarter’ - providing homes in a converted nursing home and in the Henshaw studios for continuing education. Fine art will share space in the recently-built Design and Realisation Centre.

Top attraction – Yorkshire Sculpture Park

School of Continuing Education chair Miriam Zukas said: "We want to provide higher education for a wide range of people, working together with other providers in the district. We’ll be responding to demand, starting in 2001 with a small programme and building up from there, with a wide range of part time and evening provision."

It is planned to relocate fashion – in which Bretton has a national reputation - and graphics to Leeds, creating study and research opportunities within a new School of Textiles and Design. The combination of the University’s traditional strengths, based on its association with the Clothworkers’ Company, and Bretton’s emphasis on innovative design, will enable students to study fashion all the way from polymers and the chemistry of textiles to the catwalk.

Innovative design – the merger will see a new Textiles and Design School

Teacher training provision will be consolidated at Leeds, creating the biggest institute for education in the north of England. The combined education school will enable expansion of Leeds’ secondary PGCE course, and doubling provision in primary PGCE.

In the School of Music, the merger will bring together the University’s expertise in theory and the many technical aspects of music, with Bretton’s strong reputation in performance.

Both sites will be upgraded to improve teaching and rehearsal accommodation, with a new building at Leeds to meet the increase in student numbers. The magnificent state rooms in the Mansion House at Bretton will provide an elegant backdrop for collections, concerts, conferences and exhibitions.

see the Bretton Hall website

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