The technology institute founded by the inventor Sir James Dyson will soon have the power to award its own degrees – the first of the new wave of alternative providers.
The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, which opened in 2017 on the site of Dyson’s design centre in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, has 150 engineering undergraduates who pay no tuition fees and receive a full-time wage during their four years studying and working alongside Dyson’s staff.
Originally the institute was to award degrees validated by the University of Warwick but the Office for Students, the higher education regulator in England, has said the institute can award degrees in its own name from next year, the first to do so under legislation that created the route in 2017.
Dyson said: “To be the first higher education institution to be granted new degree awarding powers is a testament to the hard work of undergraduates and the academic team. It has not been easy.”
Dyson, a vocal Brexit supporter, is estimated to have spent more than £30m on the institute and its campus, which includes study-bedroom pods, lecture theatres and labs. It claims to attract more applications from qualified school-leavers than many Oxbridge courses, with 14 applying for each place, expecting to gain As in A-level maths and sciences or technology.
Dyson added: “Britain is falling short by 60,000 engineers a year according to current estimates and is failing to encourage more female engineers, meaning that they represent just 18% of those studying engineering.
“At the same time, students are burdened with appalling debts while at university. The average undergraduate today leaves with over £50,000 worth of loans, which takes years to pay off – if ever paid off at all.”
He said a third of the institute’s undergraduates were women but admitted there was “still a way to go” in recruiting more young people as engineers.
“There is no doubt that the academic classes in Britain still look down their noses at those with a practical bent, but there is also a wider image problem: engineering is seen as boring and difficult.
“This stigma, and the assumption you need to spend your days deep in complex physics, maths and chemistry, is part of the reason that the shortage of engineers in the UK is so acute.”