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The University of Sunderland's new Manufacturing Automation Lab

Sunderland invests £1m into its School of Engineering

The investment at the University of Sunderland will see the state-of-the-art industry-standard equipment installed

Posted by Hannah Vickers | July 11, 2017 | Technology

More than £1million is being ploughed into the School of Engineering at a North East university, with the investment expected to deliver more graduates with the high-level skills employers in the manufacturing and engineering sector need.

The University of Sunderland’s Engineering department is to benefit from additional capacity and improved teaching spaces at its site in the David Goldman building at its Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s. 

New developments will include a dedicated mechanical lab, a fluid lab, demonstration space for hands-on teaching and a new manufacturing lab – each bringing students closer to the real-world environment they will be employed in once they graduate.

Modern industry-standard digital equipment is being installed, including laser cutters and 3D printers to complement traditional engineering tools, ensuring students are taught engineering through problem-based learning methods using the latest techniques. 

We want to be a stepping stone for students pursuing a career in engineering, giving them a great experience on campus, raising their aspirations and helping them move forward to the next stage - Dr Rebecca Chandy, Academic Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing

Dr Rebecca Chandy, Academic Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing commented: “My own passion for engineering inspired me to teach and motivate the next generation of engineers; the role of an engineer has so much to offer to the community, to the region and to the nation.

“We want to be a stepping stone for students pursuing a career in engineering, giving them a great experience on campus, raising their aspirations and helping them move forward to the next stage, whether that is through placement opportunities or supporting businesses to solve real-world problems.

“We have a strong foundation on which to grow the Faculty and make us the leading University in the North East for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering. From our links with the North LEP to Nissan, our low carbon agenda through AMAP and the major opportunities we’ll be tapping into, in particular our partnership with the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), we want to increase our regional opportunities; this investment will mean employers can walk through our doors and see that our students are ready to move straight into their workforce.”

Blaine Huntington, Graduate Engineer, Hitachi Rail Europe, Newton Aycliffe said: “Anyone good at sciences who likes working with their hands, I would recommend that they do a degree in engineering – and Sunderland have a very good approach. 

“Some of their investment is into the kind of equipment that will be there when graduates move into industry, having had as much exposure as possible to different kinds of equipment means you feel ready, come across more confident and knowledgeable and stand out to employers. They have excellent links with industry and their mix of purely academic lecturers, who can explain difficult and complex tasks and the importance of research, coupled with lecturers and staff more focused on real-world application has been really helpful, their approach makes you feel ready and comfortable when you get into industry. It’s a good mix.”  
 

David Knapton, principal lecturer in the School of Engineering, said: “This investment means that across our business the University of Sunderland will offer the full spectrum of engineering teaching, learning and research equipment and facilities, from the schools and community level offered at FabLab to the higher-level teaching facilities in the School of Engineering and the research level at AMAP (the Institute for Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced). Engineers teach the bulk of the programmes, sharing their wealth of expertise, industrial experience and applied research to bring the subject to life.”

It’s estimated that in the UK there’s a shortfall of 20,000 graduate-level engineers per year, meaning highly qualified engineers are in great demand and therefore able to command competitive salaries. 

We’re very excited that this investment means we can deliver more career-ready engineering graduates to fill that gap and support the engineering and manufacturing sector which is so vital to the North East economy and, in fact, UK PLC - David Knapton, principal lecturer in the School of Engineering

David continued: “We’re very excited that this investment means we can deliver more career-ready engineering graduates to fill that gap and support the engineering and manufacturing sector which is so vital to the North East economy and, in fact, UK PLC.” 

The number of students joining Sunderland’s School of Engineering has already increased five-fold, from an intake of 30 growing to 140 students in four years – with students attracted to the University’s teaching, links with industry and the varied and lucrative career opportunities that this sector offers to graduates.

100% of Sunderland’s Engineering graduates are in work or further study within six months of graduating, with 96% of these in professional or managerial roles. (Source: 2014/15 - Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey) and Engineering at Sunderland has a 100% student satisfaction rate according to the NSS (National Student Survey). In addition Sunderland’s School of Engineering programmes are in the top five in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2016).

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