Major businesses back MK:U and improved STEM education

Sep 02, 2019

Pictured at the MK:U Business Supporters Group launch: Grant Thornton UK chief executive Dave Dunckley; Tracy Darke (centre), service director of growth economy and culture at Milton Keynes Council; MK:U chief executive Professor Lynette Ryals.

SOME of the UK’s biggest businesses have united to launch a supporters group for the creation of a new STEM-focused university in Milton Keynes. 

MK:U, planned to be a new-model university aligned to business needs, is set to help them to address the digital revolution taking place in their global industries.

The businesses, which include Network Rail, Santander, Capita, Aston Martin, PWC and Grant Thornton, employ over 200,000 people in the UK. They want to see MK:U develop graduates with much-needed skills in cyber security, AI, and data science.

The coalition of businesses, referred to as the MK:U Business Supporters Group, officially launched at an event at Cranfield University’s Aerospace Integration Research Centre. As well as becoming involved in course design and student placements, the supporters group will lobby government to help to create this important national asset and deliver a much-needed new talent pipeline. 

The proposal for MK:U is backed by Cranfield University and Milton Keynes Council and will be accessible by well over ten million people within an hour’s travel of the proposed university.

MK:U chief executive Professor Lynette Ryals said: “The launch of the Business Supporters Group is a big moment for MK:U. It shows how urgently UK businesses of all sizes want a new university that is focused on bridging the gap between what students are currently taught and the skills businesses need employees to have in the real world. 

“With the backing of some of the UK’s biggest businesses, MK:U can deliver thousands of new graduates in sectors like AI, robotics and digital where Britain must compete in the future.”

Artist’s impression of the MK:U campus.

A report by employers organisation the CBI, ‘Delivering Skills for the New Economy’, highlighted that the UK economy is losing out on £63 billion a year as companies struggle to find people with the digital skills they need.

“MK:U will be a vital part of the solution for the UK’s increasingly digital economy,” said the CBI’s head of education and skills John Cope. “Employers across the UK need more STEM graduates who know how to apply their knowledge in practical ways. This is why the CBI supports MK:U, a new style university in Milton Keynes.”

Members of the Business Supporters Group range from Milton Keynes-based Appii, which employs five developers on its employee background checking app, through to Capita which employ nearly 50,000 people in the UK delivering technology-based business services to the UK government and multi-nationals.

MK:U is designed to meet urgent technological and skills gaps that exist in the UK economy. The vision for the new, groundbreaking university is one that is hands-on, focused on a curriculum for the digital economy, and specifically addressing the employment needs of organisations in the 21st century. 

Many of the courses at the new university will be accelerated degrees taken over two years rather than three and MK:U will also offer a range of degree apprenticeships in technology-related fields. 

Several courses are also being co-designed alongside employers including Santander, who have their UK head office in Milton Keynes.

Dave Dunckley, chief executive of business advice firm Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “New technologies are forever changing the business landscape, creating new opportunities and redefining old ways of thinking and working. The battle for talent with the skills to develop, apply and utilise new technologies has never been stronger. 

“We see this firsthand, within our own operations, but also across our client base and throughout the economy. We are therefore fully supportive of the MK:U project and believe the new style university will go some way in helping ensure UK businesses have access to the skills of the future to enable our economy to maintain its global competitiveness.”

In a statement, the 33 businesses behind the MK:U Business Supporters Group said: “Together we employ more than 200,000 people, many of whom come from a STEM background. These people are vital to the success of our companies, and our need for STEM trained graduates will continue to grow in the future.

“All our industries are in the process of being revolutionised by digital technology, and we want to be on the forefront of this change. It is of ever-increasing importance to us to have staff with skills in areas like data science, cyber security, and artificial intelligence.

“We are supporting the creation of MK:U. It will be a national asset with a focus on employability and 21st century skills, producing graduates who are ready to make a contribution in the workplace right from the first day.”

The full list of members of the MK:U Business Supporters Group is:

  • NatWest
  • Bosch
  • PwC
  • Arriva
  • Dentons
  • Network Rail
  • Santander
  • Capita
  • Grant Thornton
  • MK Dons Sports and Education Trust
  • Xero
  • Alternity
  • MK Stadium
  • Appii
  • MK Gallery
  • Arcadis
  • NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • BSI Group
  • Pixalytics
  • PJ Care
  • CBI
  • Connected Places Catapult
  • room44 Ltd.
  • Routeco
  • East West Rail
  • Evidence Talks
  • Shoosmiths
  • Expandly
  • Stuart Turner Associates
  • MEPC
  • IF Milton Keynes
News Filter
online publications

Read the Latest Editions