Radical curriculum propels new engineering university

Dr Janusz Kozinski, Founding President of NMiTE, on the pioneering project and how it will prepare engineers for a technological future

It has been dubbed one of the world’s most ambitious educational projects, and the specialist engineering university being created in Hereford, named the New Model in Technology & Engineering (NMiTE), is living up to that title with its radical curriculum and bold ethos.

It is an entirely new kind of university, with doors scheduled to open in September 2020 to an initial 350 students. Intended to be the boldest, most radical start-up in higher education anywhere in the world, there will be no lectures, no textbooks, no exams, with real-time assessment instead and no requirement for maths or physics at A Level either.

Built on the concept of the Humanist Engineer, the new university is developing an academic programme that will prepare interdisciplinary engineers for a world in which technology is changing who we are. This world will also need engineers that create collaboratively, consider the consequences and communicate complexity lucidly.

The Humanist Engineer will be equipped for the Fourth Industrial Revolution where engineers are merging the physical, digital and biological worlds. A world that will require, ironically, engineers to be more human than ever.

Technology will be at the heart of this new engineering university. After all, in an increasingly digitalised and technology-driven world, engineers are the pioneers who provide direction and give the technology purpose. The curriculum itself will include topics that reflect this; not civil or mechanical engineering, but ones such as artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, food security, big data, advanced robotics and smart living, to name a few.

Built on the concept of the Humanist Engineer, the new university is developing an academic programme that will prepare interdisciplinary engineers for a world in which technology is changing who we are.

Building on the experience gained at the Lassonde School of Engineering in Canada, the NMiTE team will create an engineering studios approach, building on the concept of an architectural studio, where students will work in collaborative project teams in a collection of professional and inspiring settings. Students will immerse themselves in a variety of environments that mirror modern workplace settings, with access to collaboration-enhancing technologies – accessed through a collection of cloud based services. Student project teams will use industry-standard communication suites and productivity tools, providing immediate work-related experience.

The digital educational experience will be provided through a variety of leading partners, accessed through a cloud-based identity management solution. Single sign-on for students will connect them to services from modern learning providers that promote a portfolio-based approach with adaptive learning pathways and conversational interfaces.

With work starting on the physical building of this visionary and exciting new project, I am keen to hear from education technology experts, whether suppliers or users, about how best to incorporate it into our radical curriculum.

Let me tell you more about what we are doing so you can get involved.

The undergraduate engineering degree will be based on self-directed and self-determined learning. This is to facilitate a flexible curriculum, learner-defined learning contracts, learner-directed questions and flexible and negotiated assessment. What does this all mean?

It means that the students can direct their learning to fulfil their own engineering learning curve. The academic programme insists that students will be encouraged to learn by creating, doing and solving real problems from employer partners. As opposed to learning to meet a certain percentage on a premeditated exam paper, the challenges these engineering students will face are real, everyday issues faced by engineers.

Instead of leaving with a graded degree, graduates will leave with a portfolio bursting with completed projects, demonstrated skills and an exciting engineering internship.

Accelerated delivery

The undergraduate engineering bachelor (BEng) degree will be delivered in 2 years, 46 weeks per year. The Masters engineering degree (MEng) will be delivered in an additional year, again 46 weeks per year. This accelerated delivery may seem long, but is no more than non-students work, while our academics will be there to teach and mentor.

The new university will eradicate lectures in favour of an approach of hands-on and project-based learning, therefore these 46 weeks will be packed with more time getting stuck in and less time falling asleep staring at a PowerPoint presentation. 

Project-based learning

A project-based curriculum will develop competence, commitment and concept awareness. These projects will be provided by engineering companies keen to get their ideas in and solutions to their real-world problems.

Education technology companies with engineering problems can join the party too!

The new university’s mission is to find, equip and empower a new generation of young minds to meet these challenges. Technology will be at the heart of it, helping us equip engineers of the future to be more human than ever!

Dr Janusz Kozinski is the Founding President and Chief Executive of the New Model in Technology & Engineering www.NMiTE.org.uk      

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