In 2015, the Government set out plans to open the higher education sector to new providers. New institutions, it said, were needed to provide a broader choice and deliver better value for money for undergraduates.
Fast-forward to 2019 and Hereford will become home to the first future university in the UK in four decades.
The New Model in Engineering and Technology (NMiTE), which has received £23m in Government funding as well as support from a range of businesses, will be pioneering the most modern and radical engineering curriculum in the world.
It is no secret that the UK has a shortage of skilled engineers. Demand for talent has soared. Engineering UK claims a further 1.8 million new engineers and technicians are needed by 2025.
Our future engineers need to deal with the monumental challenges facing our world, whether that is helping tackle global food production as our population continues to grow to 8 billion and beyond, or ensuring the transport, heat and entertainment we use as part of our daily lives is not causing harmful climate change.
We are changing how we recruit young students into the profession. The sector demographics are appalling, with the latest research showing that just 11% of the engineering workforce is female. The result is a huge loss of talent, ideas and creativity. The sector knows it has a gender problem but attempts to create balance have so far failed.
NMiTE is starting afresh by setting out its stall from the get go, laying down the target of a 50:50 gender balance from the outset.
The first step to achieving this is to drop dogmatic demands for all applicants to have maths and physics A-levels, which we see as one of the biggest hurdles for young women wanting to start an engineering degree.
The figures speak for themselves: Engineering UK’s Brand Monitor (EBM) survey found that while more than 59% of 11–14-year-olds would consider a career in engineering, by the age of 19 that number fell to 39%. There is little understanding of how to become an engineer or what a career might entail. We want to change that.
At NMiTE we have adopted a practical learning programme to give engineering a much broader appeal and to capture the interest of those students who may not have considered engineering before.
Our curriculum will be almost entirely challenge-based, through projects developed in intimate partnership with companies, communities and other organisations. This will help ensure NMiTE maintains cutting-edge relevance.
Our students will work in teams to learn how to cope with real-life challenges and commercial uncertainties, so they develop the integrated work-ready skills employers tell us they need.
The programme will provide our learners with the necessary theory they need to underpin their knowledge. They will study a liberal curriculum and develop skills such as communication and project management.
The course is currently going through the validation process with Warwick University, our delivery partner, and should be accredited by IET – enabling the professional recognition our graduates will need.
We are looking for creative and inquisitive minds. Knowing engineering and having a strong technical knowledge does not make an engineer. Being an engineer is more a state of mind, and an approach to life. We want people who can solve a problem that they have never seen before, and be ready to apply their skillset in the workplace and society.
We want to change the student experience and make NMiTE an inspirational place to come, learn and be dynamic. To that end, we have brought in 25 adults to take part in our Design Cohort. Over the next year, they will have a say on creating everything from the facilities to the student experience.
Future engineers have a promising career ahead of them, working with cutting-edge technologies that will shape the way we live and work.
If you are interested in learning more about NMiTE and how we are building a curriculum that inspires undergraduates and works directly with employers, then please get in touch as I would welcome the chance to tell you more at nmite.org.uk.