University planning to seize the day in MK

Prof Keith Straughan Dean UCMK
Prof Keith Straughan Dean UCMK

UNIVERSITY chiefs are working on developing innovative new business-friendly higher education courses to be taught in Milton Keynes.

The new vice chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, which is working with Milton Keynes Council to launch a new seat of learning in the new city, said Milton Keynes offered “astonishing demographics.”

Bill Rammell, the former Labour education minister who took the university hot seat a month ago, said: “It will be very much business-facing.

“Milton Keynes will be the size of Bristol in a few years’ time.”

At a meet-the-press event in Luton on Friday (September 28) Professor Keith Straughan, dean of the new University Centre MK (UCMK), said courses could be developed to help innovation and small businesses in the new city.

“We are looking at what courses work in Milton Keynes. We want a vibrant relationship with businesses.”

The new institution will offer foundation degrees, honours degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates.

Prof Straughan added that he saw courses teaching students can-do and problem solving skills.

Mr Rammell, and his team have made it a strategic aim to increase partnerships with companies. And in future, the new leader of the 24,000-student strong university, said they would look at placing tenders for contracts on the website.

A new £20million Centre for Professional Development is being built in Luton and is due to open in February 2013.

Students can also be made available for internships to help local companies achieve growth.

Mr Rammell said: “30 per cent of employers say they would offer an internship – they should approach us to help them deliver that.”

And Professor Carsten Maple, pro vice chancellor for research and enterprise, added: “Businesses should come to us because even if we do not have the skills that companies need at this university we will try and direct them to where they can go.

“It is in our interests to support thriving industry around us.”

Prof Maple said students, inlcuding mature students, could offer companies a fresh approach and the all-important innovation they need to drive growth.

“Our students question things in a way that people who have been used to working a certain way do not,” said Prof Maple. “They test the status quo.”

Turnover at the university has increased from £30million to £130million and Mr Rammell said he wants to get the institution into the top 70 in the country by focusing on the quality and usefulness of the university, including its research, to students who pay up to £9,000 a year in fees.

“We will continue investing,” said Mr Rammell, who represented Harlow in the House of Commons until losing his seat in 2010.

“We are about liberating individuals and fulfilling their potential and I do not have a problem to educate people to drive a competitive economy.

“We need jobs and successful businesses and we need highly skilled and educated people.”