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UWE Bristol and Skilled Education partnership to deliver digital and soft skills to 30,000 students and alumni

@UWEBristol is ranked second of all English universities for student satisfaction, is in the @Guardian’s top 25 universities and has the highest Gold ranking in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework.

They have built a strong reputation for employability and student outcomes but the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steve West CBE, said that the institution is not complacent:

“Every University and every learner across the world has just experienced an unprecedented year but the real disruption is yet to come. The world of work is changing in front of our eyes and we know that all employers – irrespective of industry – require people with the most in-demand digital and soft skills.

“We’re determined that our students succeed in that new world and that’s why we’ve decided to adapt our teaching and learning offer to more explicitly deliver the most in-demand skills. Alongside the academic rigour, teaching excellence, research insights and student experience our sector delivers we have an obligation to prioritise employability. And that means digital and soft skills.

Professor West was emphatic about UWE Bristol’s partnership with Skilled:

“We knew we had to partner to ensure the most relevant and immersive curricula, an exceptional online learning experience, access to the best industry leaders and a truly bespoke approach for our University. That’s why we went to the best. The team, reputation, culture and expertise Skilled have established is exceptional. Our academics and staff at all levels have been emphatic about this as we’ve worked together closely over recent months.”

Skilled Education have signed partnerships with prestigious global universities including the University of Cambridge and London School of Economics in recent months.

Their Chief Executive, Rajay Naik – who was formerly CEO of Keypath Education and Director of the Open University where he was an architect of the FutureLearn platform – said that Universities are reviewing their strategies in light of COVID-19:

“At the start of the pandemic we were supporting Universities to adapt and design online and blended courses as part of a rapid and necessary transition. However, it is now vital that our institutions lead out of this pandemic. All of our partners have recognised that what they deliver and how they deliver it must adapt and we are proud to play our part in their transition to enhanced employability and online delivery.

The UWE Skilled initiative will focus on core digital skills including artificial intelligence, data analysis and digital marketing as well as soft skills such as teamwork, communication and leadership. It also incorporates real-world projects with organisations such as AirBnB, Apple and Tesla plus live sessions with leading CEOs and recent graduates.

The announcement comes at a time when universities are under renewed pressure for their value-for-money and a week after the Office for National Statistics announced that unemployment has reached a five year high.

Meanwhile, a 2020 survey by Prospects found that 79% of students say their biggest worry is having ‘fewer job vacancies in their industry’, and highlights concerns that even with outstanding qualifications the number of jobs available is simply too low.

Most commercial providers have sought to deliver coding bootcamps to learners under the brand of Universities but Skilled appear to be aligning more closely with the strategy of institutions.

Naik explained: “Typical bootcamps typically attract affluent male learners in their late thirties and early forties. Whilst they deliver benefits, we are determined to reduce social disparities, deliver key skills to students of all disciplines and enhance the outcomes that universities deliver directly. If we prioritise student outcomes, incorporate employers into curricula, engage academics effectively and build truly immersive online experiences we have a unique opportunity to boost social mobility, build a more productive workforce and ensure Britain’s Universities remain at the vanguard of the world.”

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