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Government gives £8m start-up fund to ‘radical’ engineering university in Hereford

Tanya Blake

The New Model in Technology & Engineering (Nmite), Britain’s first new “greenfield”university in 40 years, has received confirmation of £8 million of start-up funding from the government.

This is the first of two requests for government funding, which will get the project up and running.

Nmite aims to open its doors in September 2019 to the first 300 students at a purpose-built city centre campus in Hereford. It intends to teach more than 5,000 students by 2032. Its new university concept was launched in 2015, which plans to “radically change the way engineering and related technologies are taught in the UK”.

Nmite will offer master’s degrees in “liberal engineering” which students will be able to do in three years instead of four. The curriculum will be based around blocks instead of modules, which will integrate technical and non-engineering, liberal, components and seek to solve real-world problems in areas such as agri-engineering, advanced manufacturing, big data and sustainable living.

The curriculum is being developed in partnership with Warwick University and Olin College in Massachusetts, and degrees will initially be awarded by Warwick. The new university will not have any lecture theatres, and will not require students to have maths and physics A-levels.

This new approach is in a bid to attract more students to study engineering and tackle the estimated shortfall of 40,000 engineering graduates.

David Sheppard and Karen Usher, the project’s co-leaders, said that the £8 million investment from government maker the start of a “dramatic change” in the way the country deals with its shortfall of graduate engineers as well as the beginning of transforming the economy of Hereford.

Sheppard and Usher stressed that Nmite will "radically change the way engineering is taught in Britain" and will be inclusive, encouraging high achievers that did not take maths A level, a requirement that "particularly inhibits women"

They also aim to provide pathways to engineering degrees, such advanced apprentices and for experienced technicians and engineers already working in the services.

Sheppard told PE that he hoped the “innovative engineering curriculum and teaching approach” would create a “new kind of engineering graduate for the challenge of today’s interconnected world”.

The government funding will mean that the university will now go ahead with work to create it campus in the heart of Hereford to start shortly.  

“Part of our approach is the very close involvement of businesses to help address their skills shortages, and we are particularly looking for manufacturing and engineering businesses to get involved with developing elements of the curriculum so our graduates have exactly the skills they are looking for” added Sheppard. 

Next steps for Nmite

This public-sector support is matched by financial commitment from local engineering businesses and large organisations such as Cargill and Heineken.

Government support will ultimately provide about a third of the £73 million project and will be used to:

  • Design and build the initial campus in Hereford City and Enterprise Zone
  •  Create the new institution, hire the senior leadership and management
  • Hire the faculty and other staff to create and teach the degree programme
  •  Recruit students and industry partners

Professor Stuart Croft, vice-chancellor at the University of Warwick, which is supporting the new university, said that it would continue to advise and assist as Nmite develops its “innovative degree level engineering teaching provision as a visionary, and thoughtful, new entrant to the higher education sector”.

“The UK needs many more people with engineering skills at all levels and the University of Warwick is pleased to be a partner in a range of initiatives, such as this, that will help meet that need by encouraging more young people to enter engineering,” added Croft. 


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