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Closing the skills gap by degrees

Bedford College Cauldwell Street Campus

The Bedford College Group has been awarded a HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council England) grant of £170K from the Catalyst Fund to develop a range of market-driven Higher Education (HE) engineering courses.

These will coincide with the opening of the £5.2m New Advanced Engineering & Construction Centre at the Cauldwell Street, Bedford campus.

The College will be developing further its profile of Engineering and Construction-based courses, offering Pearson Higher National programmes as well as Degrees through partnership with universities.

This will expand on the College’s current Higher Education courses which include: Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Sustainable Construction and Building Services and Construction.

The grant will enable the College to directly address the skills gap in the Engineering and Construction Industries by increasing its ability to design a Higher Education curriculum which delivers more Advanced Engineering and Construction courses at Level 4+ and adapt current models of delivery to suit employer and learner needs. Level 3 students will benefit from a progression guarantee to a Higher level programme.

As part of the project the College will explore a variety of study modes including: blended and online courses; block delivery; day release; weekend courses; fast track achievement, as well as traditional attendance models through full and part-time study.

In addition to the development of new courses the project will also include the pilot of a Research and Development project in the new Advanced Engineering and Construction Centre which opens in September 2018. Research links will be created with employers and local businesses to enhance Higher level apprenticeship programmes.

Says Dr Jo Baxter Director of STEM at The Bedford College Group:

The research that will be carried out to establish the new curriculum will strengthen existing partnerships and create new ones as we seek businesses to have a direct input into shaping the future of HE provision within the College.

HEFCE says:

30 universities and colleges in England were awarded a share of £6.1 million by HEFCE to develop new and enhanced HE courses. Working with employers, the projects will help provide the skills needed in the future economy and support the aims of the Industrial Strategy.

Each successful bidder has been awarded up to £200,000 of project funding from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund programme, with additional investment provided by the universities and colleges involved, employers and other partners. Universities and colleges will co-develop and co-design courses in conjunction with employers, both national and local.

Jo Baxter standing in front of Tresham College Kettering Campus

Across the country, this funding is supporting a range of projects in many different sectors which align with the Industrial Strategy’s ‘Grand Challenges’ – from advanced engineering to data analytics, and from artificial intelligence to bioscience.

HEFCE’s investment will help to enhance graduate outcomes and employability, and upskill the workforce – providing the key skills that industry and employers will need and contributing to UK productivity in the longer term.

HEFCE Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, said:

“We were delighted with the quality of proposals received for this funding call and particularly the impressive levels of engagement between higher education and industry.

“This investment represents important support for the government’s Industrial Strategy. The funding will provide new courses and vital skill developments in key industrial sectors across the country, from which students, the workforce and employers all stand to benefit.”

  • HEFCE is the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
  • HEFCE’s Catalyst fund provides targeted investment in projects led by universities and colleges.
  • The fund supports a range of student and HE sector priorities, including innovation in higher education, efficiency and effectiveness, skills and employability, and student interest issues.
  • An invitation to submit proposals to the Catalyst fund for projects to close the skills gap and support the Industrial Strategy through curriculum development was issued on 13 July 2017 and closed on 25 September.
  • Following this competition, HEFCE has awarded a total of £6,145,041 project funding to over 30 institutions.
  • In these projects, universities and colleges will work with industry to develop higher education provision across a number of important sectors which align with the ‘Grand Challenges’ identified in the Industrial Strategy. These include:
  • Mechanical and Advanced Engineering, Construction and Manufacturing
  • Digital skills, cyber security and artificial intelligence
  • Data analytics
  • Nuclear skills
  • Nursing, health and social care, and medical technologies
  • Bioscience
  • Creative design
  • Flood-resilient engineering and infrastructure development
  • Renewable energy systems
  • A recent report by Deloitte on the economic impact of HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund found significant benefits for students, the economy and society.
  • The government’s Industrial Strategy:
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