QMUL: Our journey to opening an Institute of Technology

Dr Philippa Lloyd, a vice-principal at Queen Mary University of London, reflects on the university’s journey to creating an Institute of Technology in partnership with Newham College

In December of last year, the government announced the second wave of Institutes of Technology – designed to provide more opportunities for high-quality and flexible education and training for adults and young people around the country.

Queen Mary University of London and Newham College have established the London City Institute of Technology (LCIoT) as part of the first wave of institutes. Our LCIoT will help provide the skills and education most sought by employers to help London develop and continue to be one of the leading global cities.

Both the government and employers themselves have noted the industries where there are significant skill shortages that hamper the capital’s development.

These include digital, STEM and healthcare.

While traditional university education certainly helps to plug these gaps, institutes of further and higher education like the LCIoT also have a significant impact through offering different educational routes and skills development, via T-levels, degree apprenticeships, and other technical qualifications.

IoTs additionally provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities for adults – which are particularly important as technology develops and a more diverse skillset is needed for the evolving technological revolution. Concepts like digital rail and autonomous vehicles, for instance, aren’t the pipe dreams of 20 or 30 years ago. And this means needing a workforce with the understanding and mastery of the technology that will underpin the world of tomorrow.

One of the main ways in which Institutes of Technology differ from traditional higher education is that they are collaborations between further education providers, higher education providers and, critically, employers. Each brings their own unique strengths and assets. The result is a learning experience unlike any other.

It is important to be as nimble and agile as possible in terms of internal processes, without negatively impacting quality assurance

For Queen Mary, this enterprise is another step on our journey of being the most inclusive university of our kind and opening the doors of opportunity to anyone with the potential to succeed with us.

In 2015, we became the first Russell Group University to offer degree apprenticeships. Since then, we have expanded our offer, including with the UK’s first degree apprenticeship in social change. This partnership with Newham College to establish an Institute of Technology will further enable us to bring our world-leading research and education to more students.

Of course, establishing such an institute is not a straightforward task. It won’t come as a surprise that it takes considerable planning, hard work and collaboration. Newham College has proved an exceptional partner and is complementary to us in so many ways. We have learned much from them, and I believe they feel the same. It is a privilege to be able to offer a different and innovative educational route for both young people and adults, boosting their job prospects and widening their opportunities.

Working at pace

One consideration for higher education providers to consider when building their own IoT is the pace at which needs change, which might be more than some universities are used to. For example, a new university programme might take 18 or 24 months in development. But degree apprenticeships like those offered in IoTs typically have much shorter time frames. As such, it is important to be as nimble and agile as possible in terms of internal processes, without negatively impacting quality assurance. Any proposals must be both deliverable and high-quality.

Collaboration and business models

As expected, an initiative involving lots of different stakeholders can mean different strategic priorities when it comes to the IoT itself. We all know collaboration is important, which means understanding your partners and their priorities, so that stakeholders are aligned in terms of how best to deliver the very best education for students.

Another consideration is the business model for your institute, and the various opportunities and challenges that come with this. One route would be setting up an institute as a separate legal entity, another option is it being an extension of your existing university or college. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model that will work for everyone, but any plan needs to be co-developed with the needs of anchor employers in mind in order to be sustainable.

Looking to the future

IoTs represent fantastic opportunities to deliver a national skills revolution, which is one of the cornerstone principles of our project. It is great to see so many being set up in all corners of the country, and I know that together they will do so much to maximise the potential for employment and economic growth. In our case, everyone at Queen Mary is eagerly anticipating opening our Institute’s doors to students in autumn 2022, and welcoming 600 students in our first year.

Dr Philippa Lloyd is the vice-principal for policy and strategic partnerships at Queen Mary University of London

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