A new £2 million centre at New College Swindon University Centre gives students a realistic experience of working with animals.

The new Animal Management Centre launched this week at the educational facility’s North Star campus and replicates the environment of zoos, animal parks, and safari parks.

The first phase of the project includes a nocturnal room, exotic mammal enclosure, and hot reptile room alongside an on-site animal medical facility. 

Animal management lecturer Kim Monahan said: “Our new nocturnal room, designed by Zoofab, is very niche for a college and a real way to show we are serious about how we keep our animals.”

The college’s bosses hail it as a revolutionary way to teach young people who want to go into careers that involve close contact with members of the animal kingdom.

Excited students have already had their first taste of the industry-standard facilities as teaching for the new academic year gets underway.

Swindon Advertiser: New College Swindon animal management lecturer Kim Monahan with four studentsNew College Swindon animal management lecturer Kim Monahan with four students (Image: New College Swindon)

Swindon-based employers attended the official opening on Thursday and heard a talk from BBC Points West presenter and W.A.G.s Retired Police Dog Charity ambassador Alex Lovell.

The second phase of the project will involve the development of the outside enclosures, which are already home to the North Ronaldsay rare sheep breed. These outdoor additions will include an aviary and a prairie dog enclosure.

This is the latest in a series of major investments into the New College campuses.

In May, a state-of-the-art learning hub for trainee medics opened at the Queens Drive site. The Swindon & Wiltshire Innovative Technology Care Hub includes high-tech mannequins that act as patients for medical students to care for on the wards

The £21 million Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of Technology on the North Star campus fully opened last November.

The animal management courses taught at the college include vocational BTEC Diplomas available at Levels 1, 2, and 3, and are often popular choices for prospective students.

Students are taught by staff with a range of qualifications from an HND in Veterinary Studies, to Masters degrees in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare.

The course’s faculty team has a variety of industry experience, having previously worked in the veterinary, farm, wildlife rehabilitation and zoo sectors.

This new centre will allow the college to expand its educational provision and provide more progression opportunities for its students, with the Animal Care & Welfare Assistant Level 2 Apprenticeship and the Animal Management HND now taking applications for 2024.