THE University of Bolton “changes people’s lives for the better”, according to a report which said the higher education institution is inspiring.

Ofsted inspectors carried out their first inspection of the university’s Access to Higher Education courses, which prepare students without traditional qualifications for a degree.

They found the courses exemplified “extremely well” the university’s core value of widening participation — with many of its students having low levels of self-esteem, and past negative experiences of education.

Inspectors said: “The transformation into confident, articulate and ambitious students is inspiring.

“Students speak eloquently of the life-changing effect of the course.”

Ofsted marked the university as “good”.

The inspection found students beginning university from low starting points make good and sometimes excellent progress — and the majority go on to enrol on a degree course with many achieving first-class honours.

Inspectors described as “impressive” the number of students who started on the course who are now studying for their masters degree or doctorate.

Teachers were “enthusiastic and committed to their students’ success” and the university had very good resources and state-of-the-art facilities.

The report concluded: “The vice-chancellor, governors and senior manager are ambitious and relentless in their pursuit of high-quality teaching and research-based provision for Access students.

“Widening participation and improving the quality of students’ lives are intrinsic to the university’s mission.”

Inspectors said that although the numbers of students drop- ping out had fallen, too many left before finishing the course and said retention rates could be improved.

Vice-chancellor Professor George Holmes said: “This is a very pleasing report, especially as it recognises the efforts of students and staff.

“Inspectors were very thorough and professional with a clear understanding of the university’s mission and core values of providing opportunities to progress to higher education in our area.”

The Access to Higher Education provision recruits students with the potential to benefit from degree programmes who may have been out of full time education for at least three years.