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Tech Trends for 2017: Tech universities

The UK’s tech skills gap is growing. In 2017, expect to see big name players launch online and offline universities with specialist degrees in STEM subjects

The UK’s escalating skills shortage is well documented, as is the effect that this shortage is having on the country’s businesses as the biggest obstacle to growth.

At a time of political uncertainty, our economy is coming under employment constraints. While the government says it’s working on reforms to improve the subjects taught in higher education, the skills the UK needs to remain globally competitive remain in short supply.

Enter tech universities.

In November of this year, inventor James Dyson announced plans to fund £15m into a new university to address the dearth of engineers in the UK and boost the access businesses have to skilled engineering graduates.

The university – named The Dyson Institute of Technology – will be based at Dyson’s Wiltshire campus and will accept an initial cohort of 25 students in September 2017 for a four-year programme. Dyson has also confirmed that it is applying to the Department of Education for official university status.

Dyson isn’t the only tech company seeking to address the skills gap. Last year, Google announced it had partnered with Udacity to launch a six-course Android development degree, and experts in the space think this is only the beginning of Google’s involvement in higher education.

Market intelligence group CCS Insight has predicted that Google will soon launch its own internet-based university where qualifications will be awarded in conjunction with an established educational institution. To quote CCS:

“The initiative [will] reinforce the role of Google in people’s lives and mark the start of huge long-term shake up of the education sector”.

How it works

In the case of Dyson, the university promises to provide “immersive engineering degrees for the next generation”. The firm has confirmed that its degree course – which will be run by the University of Warwick – will cover academic theory, offer access to experts in engineering, and will give students a “real world job and salary”.

Tuition fees will be entirely funded by Dyson and students of the course will develop new products alongside Dyson’s current engineering team, while also getting to visit the company’s design centres in Singapore and Malaysia. Think of it as University 2.0.

If other big name companies, like Google for instance, follow Dyson’s approach then tech universities could well provide the answer to the skills shortage that businesses, and government, have long been waiting for.

For students, it’s easy to see the appeal of learning from a tech giant, receiving on-the job training, and having your tuition fees covered (who wouldn’t want to leave university debt-free), and it’s in the interest of tech firms to support and launch tech universities.

As James Dyson concludes:

“The UK’s skills shortage is holding Dyson back as we look to increase the amount of technology we develop and export from the UK. We are taking matters into our own hands.”


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