STEM Matters: NMiTE – Britain’s first dedicated engineering university…

Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT

01 May 2019

NMiTE logo
NMiTE logo

NMiTE (New Model in Technology & Engineering), first in a new wave of ‘challenger’ universities following government changes designed to shake up the sector, was inaugurated last year.

This column was originally featured in the May 2019 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Located on a purpose-built, city centre campus in the cathedral city of Hereford, NMiTE is an initiative backed by government, educators (including University of Warwick and Olin College of Engineering in the US) and industry to transform engineering education in Britain. It aims to secure a Royal Charter to become Britain’s first wholly new UK university in 40 years.

The UK’s STEM skills gap is well documented: we don’t have enough engineers, or enough diversity – with women and minority groups underrepresented; not enough engineers are coming through the educational pipeline – and not enough are staying in engineering (the ‘leaky bucket’); and employers say too many of the engineers we do have lack the right skills for the future. Engineers are key to solving major world challenges – from sustainable food production to cybersecurity to artificial intelligence and more – but the UK is critically short of them. With engineering businesses unable to find sufficient graduates who combine strong academic results with the essential leadership, employability and entrepreneurial skills that industry needs, the NMiTE project is crucial to Britain’s competitive future.

NMiTE aims to change how engineering students are selected; how they learn; and how they graduate into employment. In doing this, it will define a new model of higher education for a new generation of engineers. Its teaching approach, successfully pioneered in America and elsewhere around the globe, is all about ensuring British industry has the right graduates it needs for future success.

NMiTE will welcome its first ‘pioneer’ cohort of around 50 students in 2019, growing to around 175 students in 2020 – and to 5,000 over a decade. An initial ‘design cohort’ of 25 students will attend one or more of three 14 to 16 week periods, starting September 2018, January 2019 and May 2019, to help design, build and test key components of the experience.

“NMiTE will firmly break the mould of engineering higher education,” says Professor Martin Gillie, Provost & Chief Academic Officer. “The launch of the new university is hugely timely, given the complex engineering challenges we face, whether it’s the arrival of driverless transport, harnessing the Internet of Things, applying artificial intelligence or preserving the world’s limited resources as the population approaches 8 billion globally.”

“You won’t come here to study engineering; you’ll come here to be an engineer,” explains Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, President & Chief Executive Officer. The NMiTE learning experience is being designed solely to align the skills and talent of its engineers with the needs of employers. Because these needs change as technology does, the curriculum will be designed to be flexible, and based on progressive results rather than fixed exams. This will develop a mindset that is open to change, and NMiTE aims to satisfy that appetite by welcoming its graduates back for reskilling throughout their careers.

Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT
Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT

“Britain desperately needs to boost productivity, technical skills and graduate employability,” said Dame Fiona Kendrick, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “This project, driven by employers, is a potential solution to these challenges. NMiTE aims to be a centre for innovative engineering education that broadens participation, especially for women. Valuing engineering and social science equally, it will deliver life-long learning from apprentice through to postgraduate. What NMiTE offers to employers is competitive advantage in a market where success is constrained by limited availability of talent.”

NMiTE’s degree programme will be an Accelerated Integrated Engineering Degree. It will focus on combining creativity, design and innovation, as well as developing ‘employability’ skills. The approach is best described as ‘inquiry-based learning’, where students engage in hands-on, project-based challenges and learn how to apply subject matter in a real-world context, often working collaboratively in teams. Its MEng degree will be attained in three longer 46-week years, rather than four, and courses will be delivered using a ‘sprint’ approach, integrating interdisciplinary technical and liberal components. Each sprint will contain multiple concepts, resulting in a piece of evidence for student portfolios.

The curriculum is still under development, however its four principal themes will be:

•  Feeding the World: agri-engineering & food production

•  Shaping the Future: manufacturing & advanced manufacturing

•  Living Safely: big data & resources security

•  Living Sustainably: green, renewable & smart living

Students will also undergo a mandatory work placement of between 6 and 12 months, to help ensure they are ready to hit the ground running upon graduation. And there will be an emphasis on gender equality, with a target of equal numbers of men and women enrolled.

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