New partnership builds on furniture training heritage

A new educational partnership is to continue a rich heritage of preparing furniture designers and makers for their future careers.

The Rycotewood Furniture Centre has partnered with Oxford Brookes University to deliver the Furniture: Design and Make Foundation Degree and BA (Hons).

Rycotewood’s programmes have been validated by Oxford Brookes and will be delivered at City of Oxford College, which is part of Activate Learning.

Joe Bray, higher education programme co-ordinator at Activate Learning, said: “The Rycotewood name has a rich heritage in furniture design and making. The centre has been training students in the design and craft of fine furniture since the 1930s.

“In recent years this has included university-level programmes which prepare graduates for careers with some of the biggest names in industry. Our students have gone on to work for companies such as Benchmark, Matthew Burt, Philip Koomen and Halstock Cabinetmakers as well as building enviable reputations as bespoke designers and makers. 

“Students also achieve success in national competitions on an annual basis. In 2015 these included winners of the prestigious Alan Peters’ Award, The Mixology Student Furniture Designer of the Year, New Forest Trust Fine Furniture Competition, Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers Bespoke Student Awards and Art in Action Student Art and Design Competition.

“This new partnership with Oxford Brookes University will strengthen our programmes even further and we look forward to working with colleagues in the faculty of technology, design and environment to equip students with the creative skills demanded by industry.

“The commitment to the future of furniture design and craft degree programmes is particularly encouraging at a time when programmes have closed elsewhere.  The overwhelming support and enthusiasm from the Oxford Brookes team bodes well for the future of Rycotewood and the wider industry.” 

The announcement follows a report published by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) in December, which highlighted student employability as a key strength of Activate Learning’s higher education programmes.

It means that all Activate Learning foundation degrees and BA Hons programmes are now delivered in partnership with Oxford Brookes University. These include programmes in business, motorsport engineering, creative arts, health and social care and policing.

Paul Inman, Pro Vice Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University said: “Our partnership with Activate Learning increases the choice available to students embarking on a higher education degree.

“By offering an Oxford Brookes degree through our partner further education colleges, students benefit from career-focused courses, industry-standard facilities and the opportunity to build relationships with potential future employers. Students are also able to access the excellent facilities at Oxford Brookes while studying at college, meaning they will get the best of what both institutions have to offer.”

The Furniture: Design and Make Foundation Degree is a full-time two year course. On completion, students can choose to take a further top-up year to achieve the BA (Hons) qualification. The courses are now open for applicants wishing to start in September 2016.

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Media contact: Jonathan Goode, Group PR Manager, Activate Learning, on 01865 551890 or