Investment of £2 million to tackle UK's digital skills gap

Issue date: 25 January 2018

Training the next generation of digital specialists has received a major boost, thanks to a £2 million investment at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

The Institute of Coding (IoC) is a new national consortium announced by the Prime Minister in Davos today (Thursday 25 January) and, as a full member, UWE Bristol will play a major role in tackling the UK's digital skills gap in the coming years.

To help fund its contribution to the IoC, UWE Bristol has been awarded £1 million from a £20 million funding pot allocated by the government's Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to improve the way universities train people for digital careers. A further £1 million will be invested by the university.

An industry-facing student enterprise zone, known as The Foundry, is being created at the heart of Frenchay campus and UWE Bristol will introduce innovative new courses, such as new masters level qualifications in cyber security and data analytics, to equip the UK's future workforce with the digital skills it needs to compete successfully in the global digital economy.

Dr Kevin Doyle, Associate Head of the Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies at UWE Bristol, said: “This major new investment will bring industry onto the campus to connect to the university and improve our students' and staff's understanding of what industry requires.

“It will also provide something industry needs beyond a well-trained, knowledgeable, and capable workforce – hands-on access to cutting-edge technology and bright, enquiring student minds while their learning is taking place, not just afterwards.”

Andy King, Associate Professor in Technology and Innovation at UWE Bristol, said students would use The Foundry to collaborate on projects and meet commercial clients. He said: “We believe the hub will increase work experience and provide opportunities for students to apply their subject knowledge to real world challenges, develop employability skills and ease the transition into work.

“We want to create a bridge for students between their academic course and the industry they will eventually work in. Particularly relevant for programmes with technology requirements, the focus is to create an authentic experience for students, working on and learning through paid, real-world and often high-profile projects in a low-risk environment.”

Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the IoC, said: “The strength of the IoC lies in the fact that it brings together educators, employers and outreach groups to co-develop digital skills education at undergraduate and masters level for learners in universities, at work and in previously under-supported groups across the country.

“In addition, we'll work with our partners to target under-represented talent through outreach activities, tailored and inclusive curricula, flexible delivery and removal of barriers to working in the industry.”

  • The Institute of Coding consortium is formed of businesses including IBM, Cisco, BT and Microsoft, small and medium-sized enterprises, 25 universities, and professional bodies such as the British Computer Society and CREST.
  • As part of the investment, new masters level courses in cyber security and data analytics will be launched and made available to students in a variety of different formats (traditional degree, degree apprenticeship or standalone CPD modules on a full or part time basis).
  • Substantial funding is being channelled into the transformation of the former Students' Union bar into The Foundry - a technology and innovation hub. Meeting pods, co-working areas and desks for interns will occupy the previously disused space. The Foundry will become home to a network of enterprise studios, where teams of UWE Bristol students will work on projects for industry clients alongside their studies.

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