Santander boosts university plans with £30m pledge

May 29, 2019

(from left) Milton Keynes Council chief executive Michael Bracey; Nathan Bostock; Professor Sir Peter Gregson; Professor Lynette Ryals.

BANKING
giant Santander has pledged £30 million towards the plans for a new university
in Milton Keynes.

Santander’s contribution is one of the biggest corporate donations to British higher education in recent years. Alongside £10 million in capital financing, Santander will contribute £20 million in running costs for the first three years of MK:U’s life.

The
capital costs will help to finance iconic buildings in Central Milton Keynes,
which will serve as the heart of the new university.

MK:U is being developed by Cranfield University. The funding is a major boost for plans to set up a new university in the largest English city or town to currently lack one, despite sitting at the heart of the high-tech Oxford-Cambridge growth corridor.

Santander UK chief executive Nathan Bostock said: “We are delighted to be playing such a major role in the creation of MK:U. Santander is deeply proud of our connection to Milton Keynes, with our commitment shown by our recent investment of £150 million in a world-class new headquarters here.

“MK:U
will cement Milton Keynes’ growing reputation as a key national and international
hub for technology and innovation.”

The new university aims to work in partnership with business to develop the talent and skills needed by nearby businesses like Santander, which employs more than 5,000 people in Milton Keynes and 24,000 across the UK.

MK:U
will have a strong focus on digital technologies. It will offer two-year
degrees, higher apprenticeship-level qualifications, and work placements
designed alongside employers. It will also provide a new cultural and civic
heart for Milton Keynes, which has seen an annual population growth this
century of over 17% and is forecast to be home to over 300,000 citizens by the
middle of the next decade.

The curriculum will include content which is delivered and designed by industry partners in fields such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.

Cranfield
University chief executive and vice-chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said:
“This is brilliant news. Santander’s support is a major sign of confidence in
MK:U by a huge international and local employer. It shows that world-class
businesses like Santander are crying out for career-ready, highly-skilled
graduates for the digital age- providing jobs and growth in the next century.

“It
will also provide a pipeline of talent and fantastic development opportunities
for our staff in important areas including data science, artificial
intelligence and cyber security.  Like every industry, banking is being
revolutionised by digital technology and we want to be at the forefront of this
change for our customers.”

Santander joins a long
list of other major employers who believe that Milton Keynes needs and deserves
a university like MK:U – with a focus on employability and 21st century
skills, producing staff that are ready to make a contribution in the workplace
and helping solve skills shortages right from their first day.

These
include global giants like Microsoft, Grant Thornton and Tech Mahindra as well
as  many local firms from Milton Keynes’
thriving start-up sector.

MK:U is
expected to serve at least 5,000 students and be open by 2023.

“MK:U will be a key force
in turbocharging the economy of our region and help realise the world-leading
potential of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc,” said its chief executive Professor
Lynette Ryals, pro-vice chancellor of Cranfield University.

“With backing from Cranfield, we want MK:U to apply scientific breakthroughs to solving real-world problems. We also want to show, for example with two-year degrees, that higher education can itself evolve, adapt and innovate. Our degrees will constantly evolve as the economy evolves through training and retraining, with our graduates being ideally placed to fill the national skills gaps that are holding back future economic growth.”

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