Santander provides £30million boost to plans for major new university in Milton Keynes

Plans to open  a major new university in Milton Keynes have been given a £30m boost from Santander.

The company has announced it is backing MK:U, which will have 5,000 students and be the UK’s first university focused on digital skills,

A photograph of the group overlooking the proposed site for MK:U

A photograph of the group overlooking the proposed site for MK:U

Its £30m contribution is one of the biggest corporate donations to British higher education in recent years. Alongside £10 million in capital financing, Santander will pay £20million in running costs for the first three years of MK:U’s life.

The capital costs will help finance iconic buildings in Central Milton Keynes, which will serve as the heart of the new university when it opens in 2023.

MK:U is being developed by Cranfield University, whose chief executive Professor Sir Peter Gregson this week hailed the Snatander announcemtn as "brilliant news".

He said: " Santander’s support is a major sign of confidence in MK:U by a huge international and local employer. It shows that world-class businesses like Santander are crying out for career-ready, highly-skilled graduates for the digital age- providing jobs and growth in the next century.”

Milton Keynes is the largest English city or town to currently lack a university, despite sitting at the heart of the high-tech arc joining Oxford and Cambridge.

Santander UK CEO Nathan Bostock said: “We are delighted to be playing such a major role in the creation of MK:U. Santander is deeply proud of our connection to Milton Keynes, with our commitment shown by our recent investment of £150 million in a world-class new headquarters here.

“MK:U will cement Milton Keynes’ growing reputation as a key national and international hub for technology and innovation.

"It will also provide a pipeline of talent and fantastic development opportunities for our staff in important areas including data science, artificial intelligence and cyber security. Like every industry, banking is being revolutionised by digital technology and we want to be at the forefront of this change for our customers.”

MK:U Chief Executive and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University Professor Lynette Ryals OBE said: “MK:U will be a key force in turbocharging the economy of our region and help realise the world-leading potential of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

“With backing from Cranfield, we want MK:U to apply scientific breakthroughs to solving real-world problems. We also want to show, for example with two-year degrees, that higher education can itself evolve, adapt and innovate. Our degrees will constantly evolve as the economy evolves through training and re-training, with our graduates being ideally placed to fill the national skills gaps that are holding back future economic growth.”

The new university aims to work in partnership with business to develop the talent and skills needed by nearby businesses like Santander,which employs over 5,000 people in Milton Keynes, out of a total UK workforce of around 24,000.

MK:U will have a strong focus on digital technologies. It will offer two-year degrees, higher apprenticeship-level qualifications, and work placements designed alongside employers. It will also provide a new cultural and civic heart for Milton Keynes, which has seen an annual population growth this century of over 17% and is forecast to be home to over 300,000 citizens by the middle of the next decade.

The curriculum will include content which is delivered and designed by industry partners – in fields like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.

MK:U will use its own university precinct and the wider city as a ‘living laboratory’ to test out new concepts and ideas.

In each of the university’s key areas of focus, there will be a lead business partner.

MK:U will use its own university precinct and the wider city as a ‘living laboratory’ to test out new concepts and ideas.

It will have distinctive STEM-focus (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) undergraduate curriculum in key areas including digital, cyber, autonomy, robotics and artificial intelligence.

In each of the university’s key areas of focus, there will be a lead business partner.

Milton Keynes is expected to be home to over half a million people by the middle of this century. It sits exactly halfway along Oxford-Cambridge Arc seen by the UK government as a key source for growth and innovation over the next several decades.

20 million people live within an hour’s travel of Milton Keynes, putting it at the heart of one of Europe’s most densely-populated regions.