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Warwick in California

The opportunity

A significant opportunity was presented to the University of Warwick by the University Development Foundation (UDF, a non-profit organisation previously known as the University Development Trust) in 2014 to establish a new university in northern California on land donated by private donors. Campus construction and operating costs were to be funded by the sale proceeds from a further c.560 acres of donated community land and additional fundraising.
In February 2015, the University Council approved the Senate's recommendations to progress plans with the University Development Foundation (UDF) to establish academic and student activities and a physical presence in California.

The vision

After extensive academic consultation and due diligence, a vision was developed, based on Warwick’s own journey in the UK, to establish a small-scale, research-intensive, fully comprehensive university campus on the donated land which would look to increase its student numbers over its first ten years of operation.
As a research-intensive university, the University of Warwick essentially had three key strategic aims for the project: research excellence in terms of research outputs and impact; teaching excellence in terms of the quality of students recruited, student experience and student outcomes; increasing global reach and reputation.
The University Council approved the Senate’s recommendation to progress the project in February 2015 with the following conditions:

  • That it was underpinned by a set of principles adopted by the University Council to guide the development of both the academic proposition and business plan for consideration by the Senate and Council.
  • That it adopted a phased approach to development to support and ensure careful consideration at each stage of development. This phased approach would incorporate ‘gates’ at strategically important stages of development. These gates would give both parties (UDF and the University of Warwick) an opportunity to reflect and make an informed decision to proceed or not to the next phase.

Project developments

The project was set out as three clear phases of development with defined objectives to be achieved before proceeding to the next phase. Warwick’s work in developing phase zero covered;

  • Developing research themes and the two initial Master's degrees;
  • Working with UDF to develop a fundraising strategy;
  • Raising awareness through the 'Warwick is here' campaign.

During the first phase of project development, further due diligence and development work was undertaken by focused academic work streams, supported by a project team and with oversight and direction from a sub-committee of the University Council. At every stage this initiative was scrutinised and kept under review by both the University’s Council and Senate.

Independent market testing informed the identification and development of the initial Master’s degrees for delivery, subject to meeting the requirements of the state regulatory and regional accreditation agencies. Regulatory changes since the start of the project have had a significant impact on project development, leading to a number of different options to be explored for how a new university campus could be established and grow over time. All options were tested against the original project principles, the fit with Warwick's strategy and were subject to robust financial modelling.

During phase zero, UDF progressed the permits required to sell the community land, commenced a major fundraising campaign, and a property in Roseville was identified as the location for a graduate school, which would have been the initial operating base for the new university.
After considerable review and consultation, in November 2017, the University of Warwick’s Council concluded that the opportunity now being considered had moved too far beyond the original vision to establish a fully comprehensive research-led campus.

The economic and social benefits of establishing a new university in northern California enabled UDF and Warwick to generate substantial regional support for the project to achieve these developments. UDF will continue the process to prepare the community property for sale and complete the purchase of the building in Roseville to form a package which will be used to attract a new higher education partner. UDF has received interest in recent years from other institutions about the campus opportunity. Warwick has offered to provide UDF with business planning support for a transitional period.