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MK:U: Here to support business, ready to rip up the rule book on education

MK:U is ready to tear up the rule book on university education, its chief executive has told an audience of businesspeople.

The university has begun its journey towards full university status by applying to the Department of Education. The aim is for MK:U to become the UK equivalent of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, recognised nationally and internationally for the quality of its tech education, said Professor Lynette Ryals.

Its curriculum is focusing on the digital economy, STEM subjects and the digital skills gap, working with businesses to develop courses delivering the skills employers seek.

“The idea we have is to be the MIT in the UK. That fits with the values of Milton Keynes, trying out new technology,” Professor Ryals said. The university is developing a model whereby its students graduate and leave with no student debt to repay. It also plans to move away from the traditional exam model but concentrating on digital apprenticeships.

Banking giant Santander, which is shortly to open its Unity Place campus in Central Milton Keynes, has committed £1 million of its apprenticeship levy to support businesses based in the city looking to put their staff through a digital apprenticeship.

Three digital apprenticeships are under way already at MK:U, which is teaching out of premises at Bouverie House in Central Milton Keynes. A fourth, on cyber security, is due to begin in September at the start of the new academic year.

Professor Ryals was speaking to guests at the City Breakfast Club networking group in Milton Keynes. She was joined by Kristian Mackie, manager of MK:U’s Innovation Hub, who outlined the growing engagement with local businesses. Around250 have already signed up to use the hub’s space, which is encouraging employers to interact with MK:U students. The university aims to have full-time undergraduate students within the next three years, Mr Mackie said, and is focusing on its school outreach programme. “We want to inspire the next generation of young people in Milton Keynes to think about their careers and what their next step should be,” he said.

Mr Mackie urged interested businesses to take part in the apprenticeships for which Santander will cover the training costs.

“We are here for business,” he told his audience. “We are a university specifically designed for businesses and we want to support them.”

MK:U is looking to create student accommodation in the city as the student roll grows. Professor Ryals said major employers such as BAe Systems are already sending their digital technology apprentices to Milton Keynes. ”It is a bit of a coup,” she added. “Working with businesses is important to us. We have to be agile and we have to keep talking and listening to what the new developments in business are.”

Main picture: (from left) City Breakfast Club host Liz Newell, of MHA Macintyre Hudson; Kristian Mackie; Professor Lynette Ryals; Michelle Theuma who spoke on behalf of the education-employment charity Worktree; City Breakfast club chairman Steve Freeman, also from MHA Macintyre Hudson.

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