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Plans to create digital skills university for Milton Keynes

The proposal is being led by Cranfield University with other partners named as Microsoft, Grant Thornton, MK College and Tech Mahindra

An artist's impression of the proposed new university in Milton Keynes
An artist's impression of the proposed new university in Milton Keynes

Plans to create a ‘new model’ university in the UK city of Milton Keynes are progressing with the appointment by Milton Keynes Council of Cranfield University as the lead higher education provider.


Currently known as MK:U, the university will be developed in partnership with business and prepare students for the future world of work, focusing on areas such as cyber, autonomy, robotics and artificial intelligence. Other partners in the project include Microsoft, Grant Thornton and Tech Mahindra.


It is estimated that around 5,000 students will eventually study at MK:U, with the first cohort arriving in 2023. The next step is an 18-month feasibility study, which will consider the planning, design and financing of the new university.


The university will be designed as an education institution for the 21st century, delivering a distinctive STEM-focused (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) undergraduate curriculum. In each of the university’s key areas of focus, there will be a lead business partner.


The university is a key part of achieving Milton Keynes’ long-term vision, which envisages the city growing up to 500,000 people by 2050 and being at the heart of the Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford innovation corridor.


“We look forward to working closely with Milton Keynes Council to create a smart university for a smart city,” said Professor Sir Peter Gregson, chief executive and vice-chancellor of Cranfield University. “Cranfield is one of the UK’s most business-engaged universities and we already have strong links with Milton Keynes. I am delighted that, together with our partners, we will be helping to deliver the exciting vision of a new university for the city.”


Councillor Peter Marland, leader of Milton Keynes Council, said: “For a long time, we’ve held aspirations for a bricks and mortar university in MK to attract talented young people and for local students to attend, and this is a significant step towards the creation of MK:U.


“Through the MK Futures 2050 process, we identified how a university focused on technology could benefit our economy, especially coming alongside the development of the Cambridge-MK-Oxford corridor which also holds great promise.


"This will be the first university anywhere designed as a response to the challenges facing cities today and in the future. We’re delighted to be entering this next chapter with Cranfield University.”


MK:U will offer a distinctive undergraduate provision, including accelerated two-year degrees, intensive three-year degrees with project placements, part-time/apprenticeship pathways and short courses/continued professional development. MK:U will be inclusive and promote social mobility, with an emphasis on experiential learning and flexible education style and delivery.


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