Theme: Graduate employability and recruitment, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Knowledge exchange

Authors: Dr Corrina Cory (University of Exeter), Nick Russill (University of Exeter and Managing Director TerraDat UK Ltd.) and Prof Steve Senior (University of Exeter and Business Development Director at Signbox Ltd.)

Keywords: Gold Standard Project Based Learning, EntreComp, 21st Century Skills, Entrepreneur in Residence, Collaboration

Abstract: We have recently updated our engineering programmes at the University of Exeter (E21 – Engineering the Future) with a USP of Entrepreneurship at the core of the first two years to prepare students for research led learning and the future of jobs. We have worked closely with our Royal Society Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR) to ensure authenticity in our ‘real-world’ Gold Standard Project Based Learning (GSPBL) activities. We would like to share this great collaboration experience with our EPC colleagues.



We have recently updated our engineering programmes at The University of Exeter (E21 – Engineering the Future). The Unique Selling Point (USP) of Entrepreneurship is embedded through Stage 1 and 2 using a new methodology combining Gold Standard Project Based Learning (GSPBL)[1] [image: Picture_1.jpg]) and EntreComp[2] ([image: Picture_2.png], the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework).[3-5]

Gold Standard PBL – Seven Essential Project Design Elements [4]. Creative Commons License. Reference [1] – (2019). Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements. [online] Available at: (Accessed 16 February 2022).


The EntreComp wheel: 3 competence areas and 15 competences [5]. Creative Commons License. Reference [2] – McCallum, E., Weicht, R., McMullan, L., Price, A. (2018). EntreComp into Action: get inspired, make it happen, M. Bacigalupo & W. O’Keeffe Eds., EUR 29105 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, pg.13, pg. 15 & pg. 20.


The 21st Century Skills developed in the early stages of the programmes prepare students for research-led learning in later stages and future graduate employment.

The Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) scheme, aims to increase the knowledge and awareness of cutting-edge industrial science, research and innovation in UK universities. The scheme enables highly experienced industrial scientists and entrepreneurs to spend one day a week at a university developing a bespoke project.

In this context, the EiR scheme has grown ‘confidence in, and understanding of business and entrepreneurship among staff and students’ and we have collaborated with our EiRs to ensure authenticity in our ‘real-world’ project-based learning activities.[6] They have inspired students to pursue their own ideas and bring them to reality in ways that bring sustained regional and global benefit.



The Engineering Department worked with venture capitalist Alumni, Adam Boyden to create a MEng in Engineering & Entrepreneurship. The education team seized the opportunity during curriculum development to make the Stage 1 and 2 Entrepreneurship modules common to all engineering programmes to embed a USP of Entrepreneurship in E21.

Both our EiRs are natural educators and thrive on sharing their rich experiences and stories to mentor others through their entrepreneurship journeys.

They provide on-site technology demonstrations, prizes for 21st Century Skills and interactive workshops on entrepreneurship. This integration of EiRs into teaching and learning adds variety, and through the power of story, the students engage to a high level. Furthermore, their curiosity prompts them to construct and ask challenging questions.

The open-ended GSPBL driving questions allow groups to develop unique ideas. Most of the projects yielded excellent and highly original themes, some of which could have real value in the future should they be further developed.  

We have observed learning opportunities for inclusivity, listening, improvements in self-confidence and more free-thinking and ideation as a direct result of our methodology combining GSPBL and EntreComp.

Using this method and mapping competences using EntreComp should improve outcomes for graduates who gain the top employability skills required by 2025 e.g., critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving, self-management, active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.[7] Students develop an appreciation and understanding of business start-ups, ideation and successful implementation of innovative research and development through their experiential learning.


Our EiRs have provided insights into what it takes to be an entrepreneur and have introduced energy, enthusiasm, creativity and innovative thought processes throughout both Entrepreneurship modules.

Nick Russill’s specific contributions include team building, planning, branding, entrepreneurial skills, innovation, business development, co-hosting project launch seminars, innovation workshops, project-based learning support sessions and mock investment pitch panels.

Steve Senior’s lectures Q&As and workshops include the beauty of failure, advanced Computer Aided Design (CAD)/Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), marketing and e-commerce. He mentors student teams on how to capitalise on limited resources during growth and explains risk analysis with case studies from his own companies.

The digital materials created for our blended updated programmes will remain a longer-term legacy of their involvement and provide resources available to be called on in future to sustain the impact of EiRs at Exeter.

Nick has commented that ‘my time as EiR with the Exeter engineering students has convinced me that GSPBL takes education to another level, and I wish it were more widespread in education curricula 
 The close association of learning with real-life applications and case studies has proved that students retain far more technical and theoretical information than they may do from more traditional methods’.

Students are surveyed at the start of Entrepreneurship 1 and the end of Entrepreneurship 2 in terms of their self-assessed ability to evidence aspects of EntreComp on their CV. Previous publications have illustrated an increase in competence over the 2 years of Entrepreneurship and we will continue to collect this data to evidence outcomes.[5]

Entrepreneurs in residence share their real-world experience and then stick around to build relationships with the staff, researchers and students. They become an integral part of the team. Student Feedback definitely proves that we’re helping to ignite sparks for a new generation of entrepreneurs. Student feedback includes:

‘Gain skills in areas concerning self-motivation and creativity’
 ‘become comfortable with risk and uncertainty 
 a really good learning experience’ 
’developing confidence and being able to trust yourself and take the initiative’… ‘good innovation and technical skills’ 
 ‘learning by doing is the only way for entrepreneurship and this course has given us a great environment and support to learn, fail, pivot and learn again’.

Staff and students have commented on the value of injecting ad hoc real-life anecdotes of problem-solving stories and learnings from experienced entrepreneurs which is unique, valuable and significantly enriches learning experiences.

Lessons and Future Work

An individual reflective work package report is submitted by all students at the completion of two years of entrepreneurship modules. This provides a period of reflection for students and a chance to showcase their journey including valuable learning through failure, personal contributions to the group’s success and professional development in terms of 21st Century Skills as defined by EnreComp.

Following panel Q&A at the EPC Crucible Project, future refinement includes reviewing possible additions to the reflective report and illustrating links between engineering competence and EntreComp to clearly signpost students to the relevance of Entrepreneurial 21st Century Skills for graduate employment, chartership and intrapreneurship. 


  1., 2019. Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements. [online] PBLWorks. Available at: (Accessed 18 February 2022).
  2. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Price, A., McCallum, E., McMullan, L., et al. (2018) EntreComp into action : get inspired, make it happen. Publications Office., pp.13, 15 & 20.
  3. Cory, C., Carroll, S. and Sucala, V., 2019. Embedding project-based learning and entrepreneurship in engineering education. In: New Approaches to Engineering Higher Education in Practice. Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) and Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) joint conference.
  4. Cory, C., Sucala, V. and Carroll, S., 2019. The development of a Gold Standard Project Based Learning (GSPBL) engineering curriculum to improve Entrepreneurial Competence for success in the 4th industrial revolution. In: Complexity is the new Normality.. Proceedings of the 47th SEFI Annual Conference, pp.280-291.
  5. Cory, C. and Cory, A., 2021. Blended Gold Standard Project Based Learning (GSPBL) and the development of 21st Century Skills – an agile teaching style for future online delivery. In: Teaching in a Time of Change. AMPS Proceedings Series 23.1., pp.207-217.
  6., 2022. Entrepreneur in Residence | Royal Society. (online) Available at: (Accessed 18 February 2022).
  7. World Economic Forum. 2020. The Future of Jobs Report 2020. [online] Available at: (Accessed 18 February 2022).


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development, Knowledge exchange, Graduate employability and recruitment

Authors: Prof Simon Barrans (University of Huddersfield), Harvey Kangley (Associated Utility Supplies Ltd), Greg Jones (University of Huddersfield) and Mark Newton (Associated Utility Supplies Ltd)

Keywords: Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Design and Innovation, Student Projects, Railway Infrastructure

Abstract: A six year collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and Associated Utility Supplies Ltd has resulted in one completed and one ongoing KTP project, two successfully completed First of a Kind projects for the rail industry and the development of a new design department in the company. Benefits to the University include, graduate and placement student employment, industrially relevant final year and masters projects and the application of University research. Continued collaboration will generate a case study for the next REF. In this paper we explore the various mechanisms that have been used to facilitate this work.


The opportunity

Network Rail felt that their current supply chain was vulnerable with many parts being single source, some from overseas. They addressed this issue by engaging with SMEs who could develop alternative products. A local company, AUS, believed they could tackle this challenge but needed to develop their design and analysis capability. Their collaboration with the University of Huddersfield enabled this.

Seed funded taster projects

In 2016 AUS approached regional development staff at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, the University‘s business and innovation centre, with two immediate needs. These were: an explanation as to why a cast iron ball swivel clamp had failed in service, and a feasibility study to determine if a cast iron cable clamp could be replaced with an aluminium equivalent. Both these small projects were funded using the University’s Collaborative Venture Fund, an internal funding scheme to deliver short feasibility projects for industry. This incentivises staff to only engage in collaborations where there is a high expectation of significant external future funding, and which are low risk to an industry partner.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Projects

KTPs are managed by Innovate UK and are one of the few Innovate UK grants that are designed to have a university as the lead organisation. They are particularly attractive to SMEs as Innovate UK funds 67% of the project cost. The costs cover: the employment costs for a graduate, known as the Associate, who typically works full time at the company; an academic supervisor who meets with the Associate for half a day a week; and administrative support. The key measure of success of a KTP project is that it leaves the company generating more profit and hence, paying more tax. Increased employment is also desirable.

The first, three-year KTP project, applied for in January 2017 and started in June 2017, aimed to provide the company with a design and analysis capability. A Mechanical Engineering graduate from Huddersfield was recruited as the Associate and the Solidworks package was introduced to the company. A product development procedure was put in place and a number of new products brought to market. The Associate’s outstanding performance was recognised in the KTP Best of the Best Awards 2020 and he has stayed with the company to lead the Product Innovation team.

The second, two-year KTP project started in November 2020 with the aim of expanding the company’s capability to use FRP materials. Whilst the company had some prior product experience in this area, they were not carrying out structural analysis of the products. FRP is seen as an attractive material for OLE structures as it is non-conductive (hence removing the need for insulators) and reduces mass (compared to steel) which reduces the size of foundations needed.

First of a kind (FOAK) projects

The Innovate UK FOAK scheme provides 100% funding to develop products at a high technology readiness level and bring them to market. They are targeted at particular industry areas and funding calls are opened a month to two months before they close. It is important therefore to be prepared to generate a bid before the call is made. FOAKs can and have been led by universities. In the cases here, the company was the lead as they could assemble the supply chain and route to market. The entire grant went to the company with the university engaged as a sub-contractor.

The first FAOK to support development of a new span-wire clamp was initially applied for in 2019 and was unsuccessful but judged to be fundable. A grant writing agency was employed to rewrite the bid and it was successful the following year. Comparing the two bids, re-emphasis of important points between sections of the application form and emphasising where the bid met the call requirements, appeared to be the biggest change.

The span-wire clamp is part of the head-span shown in figure 1. The proposal was to replace the existing cast iron, 30 component assembly with an aluminium bronze, 14 component equivalent, as shown in figure 2. The FOAK project was successful with the new clamp now approved for deployment by Network Rail.

The University contributed to the project by testing the load capacity of the clamps, assessing geometric tolerances in the cast parts and determining the impact that the new clamp would have on the pantograph-contact wire interface. This latter analysis used previous research work carried out by the University and will be an example to include in a future REF case study.

The second FOAK applied for in 2020 was for the development of a railway footbridge fabricated from pultruded FRP sections. This bid was developed jointly by the University and the company, alongside the resubmission of the span-wire FOAK bid. This bid was successful and the two projects were run in parallel. The footbridge was demonstrated at RailLive 2021.

Additional benefits to University of Huddersfield

In addition to the funding attracted, the collaboration has provided material for two MSc module assignments, six MSc individual projects and 12 undergraduate projects. The country of origin of students undertaking these projects include India, Sudan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria and Qatar. A number of these students intend to stay in the UK and their projects should put them in a good position to seek employment in the rail industry. A number of journal and conference papers based on the work are currently being prepared.


Figure 1. Head-span showing span-wires and span-wire clamp.


Figure 2. Old (left) and new (right) span-wire clamps.


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Graduate employability and recruitment, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Dr Becky Selwyn (University of Bristol), David Pullinger (RINA) and Dr Irene Renaud-Assemat (University of New South Wales)

Keywords: Authentic Learning

Abstract: The academic approach to writing isn’t one that is often appropriate in industry – yet at university it is usually engineering academics who teach undergraduate engineers how to write. This is a problem frequently highlighted by industry. By working in partnership with industry to set an authentic writing challenge, we hoped to provide a sense of real-world purpose and give students a valuable formative opportunity to work on their writing skills for an industrial audience.


Aims of the activity

This case study aimed to address the discrepancy between industry expectations of student writing skills and the writing-related learning opportunities provided to students over the course of a typical degree programme at the University of Bristol.

The academics involved in this project had previously addressed poor technical writing skills among undergraduate (UG) students by providing scaffolded opportunities to practice and receive feedback on written laboratory reports in early years (e.g. [1] and [2]). However, informal conversations with an industry partner highlighted the need for students to also improve their writing skills for industrial audiences (e.g. clients or colleagues external to the immediate specialist team).

Existing written assignments are assessed mainly on their technical content, with a nominal portion of the mark awarded for writing skills. This project removed the focus from the technical work and placed it firmly on how well the recommendation is written for a specific audience, encouraging students to focus on developing their writing skills. The activity provided participants with a set of real client data to synthesise while producing a recommendation to be presented to the board of a fictional company.

Design of the activity

The activity was designed as follows:

This was an optional activity for students, and 11 2nd year UG students took part from Mechanical, Mechanical and Electrical, and Engineering Design programmes.


Students were surveyed at the start and end of the activity to investigate their motivation for taking part and their experience of the activity. Before taking part, students reported two main expectations: to improve their writing skills in the context of the industrial requirements, and to support their career aspirations. This latter aim was stated either in relation to networking with the industrial partner or in relation to adding the activity to their CV.

Feedback following completion of the activity was consistently positive. Students enjoyed the real-world application and experiencing a task that was representative of tasks the industrial partner undertakes, and also appreciated the networking opportunity provided by the partnership with industry.

Reflections and future work

Students were asked what they would change about the activity next time, and two themes emerged: a request to provide more examples or guidance on the style of writing required, and embedding the activity within the compulsory units in the programme. This latter theme ties in with the ongoing work within the department to improve the way we teach and assess writing skills throughout the programme.

From an academic perspective, the workload associated with developing and running the activity (3-4 hours) was relatively small compared to the positive experience reported by the participants. Although there were only a small number of participants, the activity could be scaled up relatively easily – either by continuing to use the information package provided by a single industrial partner, or by enlisting more partners to contribute similar tasks and allowing students to complete one or more of the tasks.

Industrial partner perspective

From an industrial perspective the time commitment associated with the activity was small (3-4 hours) and was outweighed by the benefits of being able to trial techniques to improve results-oriented writing. The difficulty that students experienced in distilling relatively simple information into a concise evidence-based decision was similar to the difficulties experienced by many established professionals in industry. The typical undergraduate writing style is to tell the story from beginning to middle to conclusion leading to tendencies for writers to be verbose and indirect. In industry the style of reporting often requires the approach to be flipped whereby the conclusion is the sole focus of the writing, this requires very short, unambiguous and direct writing. The approach to writing these different types of document is altogether different and requires practise to improve the quality of the author’s reports. Giving undergraduates more opportunities to write in different styles would improve their preparedness for working in an industrial role and also be a great benefit to graduate employers by way of having more highly skilled employees.


[1] Selwyn, R., & Renaud-Assemat, I. (2020). Developing technical report writing skills in first and second year engineering students: a case study using self-reflection. Higher Education Pedagogies, 5(1), 19-29.

[2] Selwyn, B., Renaud-Assemat, I., Lazar, I., & Ross, J. (2018). Improving student writing skills using a scaffolded approach. In Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium for Engineering Education (ISEE 2018) University College London.


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Research, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Graduate employability and recruitment

Authors: Associate Prof Graeme Knowles (Director of Education Innovation, WMG), Dr Jane Andrews (Reader in STEM Education Research) and Professor Robin Clark (Dean WMG)

Keywords: Transformational Change, Industry-Education Partnerships, Educational Research, Scholarship

Abstract: The ‘Transforming Tomorrow’ Project is an example of how educational research may be used to inform and underpin change in engineering education. Building on previous research, the project provides an example of how research and scholarship may be used to effect transformational change by linking industrial requirements with educational strategy and practice. Bringing together theoretically grounded curriculum design with two years of educational research, mainly conducted during the pandemic, the primary output thus far is the development of a series of professional development workshops. Such workshops are aimed at preparing engineering educators to make sure that as WMG emerges out of the pandemic and into a time of unprecedented uncertainty and change, we continue to produce high quality graduates able to ‘hit the ground running’ upon entering employment. This short paper summarises the background to the project, discussing the methodology and providing exemplar data whilst also outlining the content of the workshops.



WMG has a strong history of providing both practically relevant education and producing graduates who are able to impact the companies they work for from the earliest point of employment. The Department’s experience, built up over many years, has come about through the development of strong relationships between WMG colleagues and industry, through mutual understanding and the co-creation of relevant courses. However, as with the whole of the Higher Education Sector, WMG cannot afford to stand still. With the ever-increasing and dynamic demands of the Engineering Sector there is a constant need to reflect and consider whether impactful outcomes are still being realised.

The ‘Transforming Tomorrow’ Project is about taking a holistic view of the Department’s educational provision in order to understand the effectiveness of the provision from students’ perspective, whilst also taking account of the views and experiences of staff and industry employers. With the research underway, a number of datasets collected and emergent findings analysed, WMG has the basis with which to begin to affect transformational change both in our educational offerings and also in how we  better meet the needs of industry. This paper reports the first part of the Project.


For many, the pace of change since the onset of Covid19 has been challenging. In WMG, having to completely reconfigure what is an exceptionally industrially focused curriculum and teach online took many by surprise. At the beginning of the Pandemic a critical literature review was undertaken looking at blended and  online learning; five key themes were identified:

  1. The need to adopt  a design approach to curriculum development
  2. The quality of the student experience
  3.  Student engagement
  4. The challenges and benefits of blended learning
  5. Student and academic perceptions of online learning

Each of these themes have in common the fact that the virtual learning approaches analysed and  discussed were developed over a significant period of time.   

Method and Findings

A mixed methodological approach was utilised starting with a quantitative survey of first year students and staff. This first survey, which took place in October 2021, focused on students’ perceptions of what types of learning approaches and techniques they expected to encounter whilst at university. Comprising a mixture of Degree Apprentices and Traditional Engineering undergraduates, the cohort were unique in that they had spent a significant part of their pre-university education learning from home during the lockdown. 

The results of the survey are given below in Figure 1 and reveal that, during the Pandemic at least,  engineering undergraduate students start university with the perception that they will be spending much of their time working independently and learning online.


Figure 1: First Year Engineering Students’ Expectations of Learning and Teaching at University: Mid-Pandemic (October 2021)


In looking at the above table one thing that immediately drew colleagues’ attention was that only half of the students expected to frequently encounter active learning approaches, and just under two-fifths anticipated frequently engaging in real-life work-related activities. Having given considerable thought as to how to assure that learning through the Pandemic maintained high levels of both these activities, this took colleagues by surprise. It also suggested  a lack of preparedness, on behalf of the students, to proactively engage in practical engineering focused education.

For the academic staff, a survey conducted at the same time sought to determine colleagues’ preferences in terms of teaching approaches. Figures 2 and 3 below provide an overview of the answers to two key questions




This paper necessarily provides only a small insight into the research findings, in total over 1,300 undergraduate and postgraduate students and over 200 colleagues have participated in the research thus far. Analysing the findings and feeding-forward into the Education and Departmental Executive structures, the findings are being used to shape how education has continued under the lockdown (and will continue into the future).  With a firm-eye for the ever-changing requirements and expectations of industry, a series of pedagogical workshops grounded in the Project research findings have been developed. The aim of such workshops is to upskill academic colleagues in such a way so as to be able to guarantee that WMG continues to offer industrially relevant education as society moves out of the Pandemic and into an unknown future.

Moving Forward: Scholarship, Synergy & Transformational Change: Meeting the learning and teaching challenges of 21st Century Industry

Planning, the second stage of the Project has meant synthesizing the research findings with organisational strategy and industrial indicators to put in place a series of professional-development workshops for teaching colleagues. Each workshop focuses on a different area of educational practice and considers the needs of industry from a particular standpoint. Plans are underway to use the workshops themselves as opportunities to gather data using an Action Research Methodology and a Grounded Theory Philosophy. The Project is at best estimate, midway through its lifecycle, but may continue for a further two years depending on the Covid situation.

The planned workshops, which will be offered to colleagues throughout the Spring and Summer, 2022, will focus around six distinctive but interlinked topics:  

1. Teaching to Meet the Challenges of Industry

2. Student-Centred Active Learning

3. Growing independent learners

4. Levelling the Playing Field

5. Re-Designing what we do

6. Engineering  an environment for learning


In conclusion, society is entering what has been termed ‘the new normal’; for WMG, there is nothing ‘normal’ about what we do. We are entering a ‘Transformational Time’; a period when by completely changing and challenging our educational offerings and culture we will work with our industrial partners to purposefully disrupt  the ‘new normal’. In doing so we will continue to produce forward-thinking, flexible and synergetic learning experiences from which highly qualified graduates able to succinctly blend into the workplace will emerge. 


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Graduate employability and recruitment, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Bob Tricklebank (Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology) and Sue Parr (WMG, University of Warwick).

Keywords: Partnerships, Academic, Industry

Abstract: This case study illustrates how, through a commitment to established guiding principles, open communication, a willingness to challenge and be challenged, flexibility and open communication, it’s possible to design and deliver a degree apprenticeship programme that is more than the sum of its parts. 



Dyson is driven by a simple mission: to solve the problems that others seem to ignore.  From the humble beginnings of the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner, Dyson is now a global research and technology company with engineering, research, manufacturing and testing operations in the UK, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The company employs 14,000 people globally including 6,000 engineers and scientists. Its portfolio of engineering expertise, supported by a £3 million per week investment into R&D, encompasses areas from solid-state batteries and high-speed digital motors to machine learning and robotics.

Alongside its expansive technology evolution, Dyson has spent the past two decades supporting engineering education in the UK through its charitable arm, the James Dyson Foundation. The James Dyson Foundation engages at all stages of the engineering pipeline, from providing free resources and workshops to primary and secondary schools to supporting students in higher education through bursaries, PhD funding and capital donations to improve engineering facilities.

It was against this backdrop of significant investment in innovation and genuine passion for engineering education that Sir James Dyson chose to take a significant next step and set up his own higher education provider: the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.

The ambition was always to establish an independent higher education provider, able to deliver and award its own degrees under the New Degree Awarding Powers provisions created by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. But rather than wait the years that it would take for the requisite regulatory frameworks to appear and associated applications to be made and quality assurance processes to be passed, the decision was made to make an impact in engineering education as quickly as possible, by beginning delivery in partnership with an established university.

Finding the right partner

The search for the right university partner began by setting some guiding principles; the non-negotiable expectations that any potential partner would be expected to meet, grounded in Dyson’s industrial expertise and insight into developing high-calibre engineering talent.

1.An interdisciplinary programme

Extensive discussions with Dyson’s engineering leaders, as well as a review of industry trends, made one thing very clear: the engineers of the future would need to be interdisciplinarians, able to understand mechanical, electronic and software engineering, joining the dots between disciplines to develop complex, connected products. Any degree programme delivered at the Dyson Institute would need to reflect that – alongside industrial relevance and technical rigour.

2. Delivered entirely on the Dyson Campus

It was essential that delivery of the degree programme took place on the same site on which learners would be working as Undergraduate Engineers, ensuring a holistic experience. There could be no block release of learners from the workplace for weeks at a time: teaching needed to be integrated into learners’ working weeks, supporting the immediate application of learning and maintaining integration into the workplace community.  

3. Actively supported by the Dyson Institute

This would not be a bipartisan relationship between employer and training provider. The fledgling Dyson Institute would play an active role in the experience of the learners, contributing to feedback and improvements and gaining direct experience of higher education activity by shadowing the provider.

WMG, University of Warwick

Dyson entered into discussions with a range of potential partners. But WMG, University of Warwick immediately stood out from the crowd.

Industrial partnership was already at the heart of WMG’s model. In 1980 Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya founded WMG to deliver his vision to improve the competitiveness of the UK’s manufacturing sector through the application of value-adding innovation, new technologies and skills development. Four decades later, WMG continues to drive innovation through its pioneering research and education programmes, working in partnership with private and public organisations to deliver a real impact on the economy, society and the environment.

WMG is an international role model for how universities and businesses can successfully work together; part of a Top 10 UK ranked and Top 100 world-ranked university.

WMG’s expertise in working with industrial partners meant that they understood the importance of flexibility and were willing to evolve their approach to meet Dyson’s expectations – from working through the administrative challenge of supporting 100% delivery on the Dyson Campus, to developing a new degree apprenticeship programme.

Academics at WMG worked closely with Dyson engineers, who offered their insight into the industrial relevance of the existing programme – regularly travelling to WMG to discuss their observations in person and develop new modules. This resulted in a degree with a decreased focus on group work and project management, skills that learners would gain in the workplace at Dyson, and an increased focus on software, programming and more technically focused modules.

Importantly, WMG was supportive of Dyson’s intention to set up an entirely independent higher education provider. Rather than see a potential competitor, WMG saw the opportunity to play an important part in shaping the future of engineering education, to engage in reciprocal learning and development alongside a start-up HE provider and to hone its portfolio for future industrial partnerships.

The programme

In September 2017, the Dyson Institute opened its doors to its first cohort of 33 Undergraduate Engineers onto a BEng in Engineering degree apprenticeship, delivered over four years and awarded by the University of Warwick.

Two days per week are dedicated to academic study. The first day is a full day of teaching, with lecturers from WMG travelling to the Dyson Campus to engage in onsite delivery. The second day is a day of self-study, with lecturers available to answer questions and help embed learning. The remaining three days are spent working on live engineering projects within Dyson.

The first two years of the programme are deliberately generalist, while years three and four offer an opportunity to specialise. This academic approach is complemented in the workplace, with Undergraduate Engineers spending their first two years rotating through six different workplace teams, from electronics and software to research and product development, before choosing a single workplace team in which to spend their final two years. Final year projects are based on work undertaken in that team.

The Dyson Institute enhances WMG’s provision in a variety of ways, including administration of the admissions process, the provision of teaching and learning facilities, pastoral support, health and wellbeing support, social and extra-curricular opportunities, monitoring of student concerns and professional development support.  

Key enhancements include the provision of Student Support Advisors (one per cohort), a dedicated resource to manage learners’ workplace experience, quarterly Wellbeing and Development Days and the Summer Series, a professional development programme designed to address the broader set of skills engineers need, which takes the place of academic delivery across July and August.

Continuous improvement  

The collaborative partnership between Dyson, the Dyson Institute and WMG, the University of Warwick did not end when delivery began. Instead, the focus turned to iteration and improvement.

Dyson Institute and WMG programme leadership hold regular meetings to discuss plans, progress and challenges. These conversations are purposefully frank, with honesty on both sides allowing concerns to be raised as soon as they are noted. An important voice in these conversations is that of the student body, whose ‘on the ground experience’ is represented not only through the traditional course representatives, but through stream and workplace representatives.

Even as the Dyson Institute has begun independent delivery (it welcomed its first Dyson Institute-registered Undergraduate Engineers in September 2021), both partners remain dedicated to improving the student experience. The current focus is on increasing WMG’s onsite presence as well as the regularity of joint communications to the student body, with a view to supporting a more streamlined approach to challenge resolution.


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Graduate employability and recruitment, Research

Author: Dr Salma .M.S. Al Arefi (University of Leeds)

Keywords: Science and Social Capitals, Sense of Belonging, Intersectionality, Student Success

Abstract: Being in a marginalised position due to feeling of otherness because of one’s gender as well as intersecting identity can create psychological hidden barriers. Coupled with science and social capitals such variables are key determines of student’s self-concept of engineering self-efficacy, competencies, and abilities. The impact of being othered may not only be limited to interest for participation in engineering but could extend beyond and significantly affect student engagement, success, and affiliation with engineering. This could impact students’ sense of belonging to their degree programme, university, and discipline, leading to adverse impacts ranging from low engagement to low attainment, or discontinuations. Such experiences can be greatly exacerbated for students with intersecting identities (‘double, triple, jeopardy’), e.g., a female student who identifies as a first-generation, working-class, disabled, commuter, carer, neurodiverse or mature student. This report presents work on progress on a student-centred interventional case study on exploring the impact of the intersectional lived experiences of underrepresented, disadvantaged and minoritised student groups in engineering beyond obvious gender and pre-university qualifications characteristics.


1.     Problem Statement

Initiatives on closing the technical skills gap remain limited to access to either engineering education or the workplace.  Identifying and supporting students facing barriers to continuation can be key to enhancing student success in a way that bridges the gap between the ignition of interest and transition to the engineering industry.  Early but sustained engagement throughout the life cycle of an engineering student is however vital to cultivate students’ sense of belonging to their modules, degree programmes and the wider industry. That would in turn support the formation of their engineering identity.

Gendered identity, as well as pre-university qualifications, are yet perceived to exert the strongest force for marginalisation and underrepresentation in engineering education and the workplace. The impact intersecting identities can have in relation to ignition of interest, participation, as well as the formation of engineering identity, also need consideration.  Along with gender, characteristics such as race, class, age, or language can have an added impact on already minoritized individuals (the ‘double, triple, quadrant…. jeopardy’), whereby the experience of exclusion and otherness can be exacerbated by overlapping marginalised identities. Coupled with the self-concept of own science capital, efficacies, and competencies [1-2], the formation of engineering identity could be expressed as a direct function of a sense of inclusion or otherwise exclusion [3]. Within this context, such an inherent feeling of connectedness describes the extent to which the lived experience of individuals is acknowledged valued and included [4], which is a healthy fertilizer for the formation of engineering identity. Perceived threats to one’s belonging due to a feeling of exclusion or rejection could on the contrary negatively impact one’s perception of self-efficacy and hence affiliation with engineering.

2.     Project Aims

The role of effect in learning to foster a sense of belonging and enhance a coherent sense of self and form the engineering identity has attracted growing pedagogical research interest. In academia, a sense of belonging has been shown to excrete the largest force on one’s intent to participate in engineering and to be the key sustainable vehicle for successful progressions. Because engineering learning activities are pursued in complex social interactions, acknowledging, and understanding the role of belonging in academic success is key to fostering an inclusive culture that encourages and recognises contributions from all.  It is hoped that the project outcomes can advise on understanding to support underrepresented, marginalised and minoritised students overcome self-perceived psychological barriers to their degree programme, university, or engineering workplace. The intersectional lens of the project is aimed to uncover key culprits that impact engineering identity formation for traditionally underrepresented, disadvantaged and minoritised students beyond obvious gender and pre-university education characteristics.

Outcomes will role model fostering an inclusive culture where engineering students from all backgrounds feel that they belong in an effort to support engineering higher education institutions to adhere to the changes introduced by the Engineering Council to the U.K. Standards for Professional Engineering Competency and Commitment around recognising inclusivity and diversity. This should be applicable to other STEM-related disciplines.

3.     Decolonial partnership

The project centres on students’ voices through a decolonial participation approach that acknowledges participants as co-researchers and enables them to take an active role in the co-creation of the project deliverables. Participation will be incentivised through recognition (authorship, certifications) as well as financial incentives.  The use of evidence-based active listening to enable students to share their lived experiences of belonging through storytelling and story sharing is hoped to create a safe space to empower and acknowledge student voices so that every student feel that they matter to their degree programme, university, and discipline. That in turn would cultivate authentic learner identity and a sense of belonging.

4.     Outcomes and future work

The findings are hoped to advise on a sustainable support approach whereby early and sustained engagement (throughout the student lifecycle from access to continuation, attainment, and progression) are prioritised to facilitate the transition of students into and from Engineering. Co-created artefacts from the project will be used to support access and continuation by providing examples of lived experiences for prospective students to associate with. Fostering a sense of belonging is hoped to have a direct impact on learner engagement, success, and attainment as well as enhancing students’ ability to progress towards achieving their unique goals beyond their degree.

The second phase of the 2-year project will involve student recruitment and selection, interventional listening, storytelling-based approaches and co-creation of artefacts.


The work is carried out as part of the fellowship of the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence in partnership with Dr Kendi Guantai, from Leeds Business School, Marketing Division and Dr Nadine Cavigioli Lifelong Learning Centre at the University of Leeds.



Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Graduate employability and recruitment

Authors: Dr Lisa Simmons (Manchester Metropolitan University), Dr Carl Diver (Manchester Metropolitan University), Dr Gary Dougill (Manchester Metropolitan University), Scott Pepper (GAMBICA), Paul Foden (NMCN) and Robin Phillips (Siemens Advanta Consulting).

Keywords: Graduate Outcomes, Employability, Engineering Education

Abstract: FutureMe is an event designed to enhance the aspirations, confidence and the graduate destinations of students. The series begins with an ‘industry week’- a unique collaboration between University and Industry – during which industry delivers keynote talks on: professional engineering, graduate skills, internationalisation, graduate destinations, and the flagship one day industry challenge. This event has been recognised by IET, and IMechE as good practice, in working collaboratively to show students what it is like to work as a professional engineer.


What is the case study about?

Assessment centre recruitment activities form an employment barrier to entry for students and can be challenging to prepare for. A large body of research suggests that motivation to begin and complete a degree in engineering; knowledge of the engineering field and its practitioners; along with students being able to identify themselves as “being an engineer” are all key drivers in student progression and graduate success. Through collaboration with industry partners, we have developed a range of events that not only give students much-needed preparation for the recruitment process but simultaneously allow them to explore their core identity and motivation.

This case study presents the development of the “FutureMe” event, which grew from a pragmatic approach to assessment centre preparation and into a self-sustaining, collaborative community between academia and industry.

What were its aims?

The core aims of the “FutureMe” activity are to:

How did it come about?

Preparing students for the assessment centre recruitment process alongside studies can be challenging. These recruitment activities are difficult, adversarial, and often intimidating for students who have limited – if any – opportunities to gain experience before they face a real recruitment panel.

“FutureMe” was established in the first instance to provide an opportunity for students to work with industrial partners on a challenge that replicated activities that are often given to applicants in an assessment centre.  A key element of the challenge was that it should allow for multi-disciplinary and cross academic level working, and should not be overly technical to a particular discipline, rather it should give students an experience of how engineers work within business and the many functions within an organisation.

As the event was set up it grew to include keynote talks on; professional engineering, graduate skills, internationalisation, graduate destinations, and the flagship one-day industry challenge. Figure 1 illustrates the January 2022 schedule of events. Figure 2 provides further detail on the running order for the industry challenge session(s).


Figure 1 Example schedule of events


Figure 2 Industry Challenge Running Order


How was it set up?

Industrial partners were approached to take part in the event – the industry challenge – via the Department of Engineering’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), GAMBICA, GM Chamber of Commerce and IET Enterprise partners.

Industrial partners were presented with

Interested parties then contacted the lead academic for a further meeting to discuss their challenge ideas and the event.

Figure 3 shows the process from initial email invites to industrial partners to the final challenge session


Figure 3 Step process showing how industrial partners develop a challenge to take part in the event


Who did it involve? (e.g., collaborating parties)

The rationale for the event was discussed for feedback with representatives from the Department of Engineering Industrial Advisory Board, GAMBICA and GM Chamber of Commerce.

All authors of this case study, worked collaboratively to develop the event, engage additional industrial partners, and feedback to the academic teams.

What were the outcomes?

FutureMe event has run in January 2021 and 2022.

In each event, there were 900 students invited, 50 supporting academics and 20+ industry representatives.

The event has led to additional opportunities for collaboration, for example, other employability events, and curriculum support in larger projects and guest lectures.

Are there any evidential outcomes?

Students were surveyed pre and post-event, on their understanding of their career readiness, their work experience, why they chose to take part in the event and what they gained from the event.

Reasons for taking part in the event were largely (75% of respondents) related to understanding how engineers work in industry and to learning more about graduate destinations for engineers.

Post-event students enjoyed the short period of time to complete the challenge, the breadth of access to industry representatives and learning about how engineers approach challenges in industry.

What lessons were learned, or what reflections can you provide? What might you do differently?

Feedback from Industry

The students who I spoke to excelled and performed better than several experienced engineers that I have been interviewing over the last few months.

I found the sessions very interesting, the discussions through the Q&A after the presentations were very good. It was great to be able to delve into more of the technology stack and see how they approach it. I also found it very interesting that the two groups chose different use cases/verticals for their research, and it tilted the result to slightly different outcomes. Really interesting to see that!

A brilliant process and a great opportunity for productive collaboration between MMU and industrialists in the interest of enhancing student employability. Without a doubt, the students were the stars of the show. Super job!


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

In September 2015 the first university-business co-developed Degree Apprenticeship programmes were launched – having been designed and eligible for funding under the government’s new model for apprenticeship training (Apprenticeship Standards), and expected to be resourced via the so called “apprenticeship Levy”.

Whilst still at a relatively small scale and early stage, as at March 2016, Apprenticeship Standards are ‘ready for delivery’ at the Degree Apprenticeship level in three discipline areas – two of which are engineering-related.  A further seven are awaiting approval, five of which are engineering-related.

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Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

In Northern Ireland, the term “Higher level apprenticeships (HLAS)” covers what are known in England as Degree Apprenticeships and offer on-the-job training and off-the-job learning at higher levels, including Foundation Degrees (level 5), Honours Degrees (Level 6), and post-graduate awards (Level 7-8).  NB they include Level 8 (PhD) which they explicitly do not in England.

Pilot activity is currently underway with 50 employers in the following priority sectors:


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Degree Apprenticeships Toolkit

The different higher education fee levels in Wales make the situation somewhat different to England.

It appears that apprenticeships are not funded for Wales and the only relevance thus appears to be for Welsh students pursuing an apprenticeship in England.

Read more:


Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

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