GLOBAL tech firm Fujitsu has praised the forward-thinking vision of south west Wales as it opened its new Education Innovation Hub at Swansea University’s £450 million Bay Campus.
The technology-focused hub is the latest addition to the university’s School of Management, following hotly on the heels of The Bevan Commission, who moved its base from Cardiff to the Fabian Way campus last month.
A host of guests from across academia, industry, health, education and government gathered at the Bay Campus to see the ribbon cut at the prestigious education hub, which is supported by the Talent Bank Further Education programme.
Talent Bank, which is led by Gower College in a partnership with Institute of Life Science at Swansea University’s Medical School, is a new bespoke education and skills programme specifically designed to support the evolving life and health science sector in South West Wales.
The project is being driven by Gower College’s Beverley Wilson- Smith.
Talent Bank, which is part of the ARCH partnership, also announced the start of its Fujitsu and Intel Young Ambassador Programme at the opening of the hub. Beverley said: “We are delighted that Talent Bank can welcome such high profile companies as Fujitsu and Intel into our work. The opening of the Innovation Hub here at Swansea University is a key milestone for Talent Bank in that their ambassador programme will help us emerge our students in the world of innovation, industry and next generation tech.
“Fujitsu and Intel recognise the rising demand for STEM subject students across all sectors and their pilot industry-led programme is designed for selected students and focuses on digital and emerging technologies and innovation in order to grow local talent and skill supply across the south west Wales region.
“Students across south west Wales will be able to get hands-on, world-class exposure to industry experts from across the UK.
“There are a few remaining places available on the ambassador programme. If you are 14- to 16-years-old and currently in school and interested in technology and computer science, there is still time to be part of this unique opportunity.
“There is a programme of monthly meet-ups hosted at the new Fujitsu Innovation Hub which will support youngsters in their GCSE Computer Science studies and are also an opportunity to showcase emerging technologies and all available career options.”
Talent Bank, which is being delivered through the ARCH partnership, is a full-time education programme for young people aged 16+ wanting to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) A-levels or vocational and technical qualifications.
ARCH (A Regional Collaboration for Health) is a unique partnership between Swansea University, ABMU and the Hywel Dda University Health Board, who have come together to improve the health, wealth and well-being of the people of South West Wales.
ARCH board member and School of Management Dean Professor Marc Clement, who opened the hub this week, said: “As well as creating a healthcare system fit for the 21st century, the ARCH partners are leading the way in ensuring the creation of the next generation of doctors, nurses, healthcare staff, scientists, researchers and innovators. The Talent Bank will provide a dynamic learning experience which will help deliver these goals.
“The School of Management is delighted to welcome such as prestigious partner as Fujitsu to the Bay Campus.
“Relationships such as this between ARCH and Fujitsu and Intel will ensure local students can be immersed in an innovation-rich environment, working with leading industry, health and life science partners.”
Professor Clement, who is Executive Chair for the Institute of Life Science and vice-president of Swansea University, added: “This really is pioneering stuff, and now students will be able to benefit from unprecedented access to the world-leading state-of-the-art resources the Fujitsu Innovation Hub will bring.
“It will also provide them with one of the most advanced technological learning spaces in the region and will inspire and create a new generation of talent for the 21st century.
“The brand power Fujitsu and Intel bring to the table and the opportunities they present for our young learners in South West Wales is invaluable.
“We should not under-estimate the forward thinking of the ARCH ethos and what Talent Bank can help deliver. Talent Bank is a vital part of realising the importance of the life science and health sector in this area.
“Collaboration with such big-name firms as Fujitsu and Intel, along with the two university health boards and the university, will provide Talent Bank learners with a unique and ideal learning environment.”
The Fujitsu programme already supports 10 schools, colleges and universities across the UK, by setting up Innovation Hubs to equip these establishments with high performance solutions and support digital skills development. The initiative aims to enhance teaching and unleash students’ potential by putting technology at the heart of education.
Ash Merchant, Director of Education at Fujitsu, helped open the hub this week. He said: “The Talent Bank is vital to transforming the way students learn.
“A recent survey by Fujitsu revealed that around a fifth of consumers believe digital education should be part of the modern education curriculum, which points towards a real need to see educational establishments focus on an embedded digital journey. Contemporary models such as the Talent Bank will play a crucial role in making this happen – and Fujitsu, supported by our partners, is committed to supporting them in bringing their vision to life.
“We are incredibly excited to further grow our commitment to putting technology at the heart of education by adding Swansea to our 2016 Young Ambassador Programme and opening the Innovation Hub in Swansea University.
“Passion goes a long way; however, passion is sometimes not enough – education needs collaboration and support from the industry to really support the right skills development for young people, to lead to future employment opportunity, and that’s what the Ambassador Programme is all about.”
Fujitsu Director Joe Durran said: “By using technology and harnessing innovation, we can redesign the future of healthcare. ARCH is an exciting vehicle to help deliver this.”
Sculpture students to exhibit in New Mexico
Students from Coleg Sir Gâr’s Carmarthen School of Art will be exhibiting their work in a student exhibition of iron sculpture at New Mexico Highlands University in the USA.
No stranger to visiting America, the department has long-established links within an exchange programme at Kansas State University.
The exhibition takes place from August 17 to September 18 at the university’s Burris Hall Gallery.
Lisa Evans, programme director of the degree honours programme in sculpture at Carmarthen School of Art has connections with arts professor David Lobdell at New Mexico Highlands University. She said: “We are thrilled to be invited to this prestigious event and students are currently preparing work which will be molded, cast and finished by the university in the next few months.
“The work is an open brief, we just have to ensure that we use material that can be used to make moulds and be cast in iron.”
Lisa has also been invited as a panel member at the Western Cast Iron Art Conference at the University of Dakota. The panel addresses international and collaborative activities including iron pours, workshops and performance.
Westminster wants to ‘value’ degrees
THE CONSERVATIVE General Election Manifesto was characterised as woefully short on content but long on vague promises of jam today, jam tomorrow, and jam ever after. However, part of its text squirrelled away on page 37, has caused consternation among the UK’s universities.
A reference to the relatively obscure Augar Review into higher education and the Conservatives’ intention to review higher education in light of its content, masks – Universities say – a threat to arts and humanities courses across the UK. The Government’s subsequently announced intention to have Ofsted rank universities by graduate earnings is also under attack.
Among the recommendations of the Augar Review, one stands out above the others. The review makes the case that while subjects like business, the creative arts and social studies have value, the volume of students studying these subjects is more than the value created, while there is a relative lack of provision of courses in subjects like engineering and the physical sciences. In other words, there are too many ‘low value’ courses – the phrase used in the Conservative manifesto – and not enough courses offering a ‘high value’, either to graduates or the taxpayer for their respective investments.
The problem for opponents of the report’s recommendations in that respect is that its finding is undoubtedly true.
There are too many universities offering courses which offer little or no benefit to their graduates, certainly in terms of future earning potential and, too often, those courses are of no relevance to employers and the needs of UK industry. The question used to be how many angels dance on the head of a pin, now it is how many arts and humanities graduates work as baristas on little over minimum wage.
However, the issue of relying upon a solely monetary outcome to measure a course’s overall ‘value’ is problematic.
In a major speech on the topic of value in higher education, UUK President Professor Julia Buckingham called on the government to broaden its definition of ‘value’ beyond a student’s expected future salary alone and to recognise the less celebrated, yet vital benefits of studying for a degree. She also issued a rallying call to the sector to do more to address concerns around value and respond more effectively where there are legitimate concerns.
To support the government in adopting a new approach, UUK is outlining proposed new measures against which it believes universities can demonstrate the success and contribution of their courses. These include the proportion of graduates working in essential public services, the number taking positions in sectors and regions with skills shortages, or the likelihood of a graduate starting their own business.
Universities UK claims, in adopting a new approach, universities could assess and illustrate the wider benefits to students of university life; such as their life satisfaction, personal health, and opportunities to get involved in volunteer work.
Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London, said: “While universities need to work collectively and respond more effectively to legitimate challenges around the value of some university degrees, the government also needs to broaden its current narrow definition of success based on salaries alone. This is a blunt tool which does a disservice to students and recent graduates while failing to consider the wider student experience.
“A much broader approach which takes account the other benefits of a university degree would better reflect what is important to students, parents, employers and society.
“We need to look beyond an individual’s P60 and think about the total package of what they have learned and achieved through their time at university.”
That is all well and good. However, Universities UK’s MadeatUni campaign – intended to show the value universities deliver back to society – contains barely a handful of examples, in over 100 offered, which directly reference value-added to communities by either creative arts or humanities graduates. Its focus is relentlessly upon science, medical, and other public service degree graduates.
Somewhere, it could have mentioned research published by the Centre for Economics and Business Research barely a month after the Augar Review. It reported the arts and culture sector contributes £10.8billion a year to the UK economy. The Treasury gains £2.8bn from the arts and culture sector through taxation. It generates a further £23billion a year and 363,700 jobs.
And, even during the depths of austerity, productivity in the arts and culture industry remains greater than that of the economy as a whole.
The impact on some Welsh Universities, should the UK Government proceed with its plan, could be grim. Not only do Welsh graduates generally earn less because wages in Wales are lower than in England, but also arts and humanities graduates from Welsh universities generally earn little more than had they not bothered to incur debt by going in the first place. Wales – particularly rural Wales – is already subject to a ‘brain drain’. If students see they can earn more by studying, for example, at a middle-ranking English University than a Welsh one, the ‘brain drain’ could accelerate.
Some long-standing courses and the viability of Welsh institutions would also be threatened. Even the most desperate of English-based students trying to find a University through clearing might baulk at paying tens of thousands of pounds to attend an arts or humanities course in Wales which would add little or no value to their prospects
On the other hand, Welsh Universities could exploit a significant difference between them and their English counterparts. Welsh Universities score well in a particular index which appeals to modern students: wellbeing.
According to a poll commissioned last year by Universities UK, only one-third of students and recent graduates decided to attend university to get a higher salary than they otherwise would have.
Modern students, it appears, are more interested in wellbeing and a good experience of being at University than netting a big paycheck once they’ve completed their courses.
Extra funding for further education colleges
THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has revealed details of the additional £23m it will provide to Further Education colleges, including sixth forms and Adult Community Learning, for the next financial year.
It confirmed college staff will receive a 2.75% pay rise after the Welsh Government provided funding of £6m to ensure college teachers receive the same pay as school teachers.
The Welsh Government will also provide an additional £2m to develop mental health and well-being support in colleges across Wales. Up to £80,000 will be made available to individual colleges to support both students and staff. Up to £800,000 will also be available to support collaborative projects between colleges.
The Welsh Government will continue its £10m Skills Development Fund, designed for colleges to address gaps in job-specific skills in their areas, as identified by local employers. £5m will again be available for colleges to invest in staff professional development, including developing digital and Welsh-language skills.
Kirsty Williams, the Education Minister, said: “Our further education colleges play a vital role in post-16 education in towns and cities all over Wales, as well as the wide range of services and employment opportunities they provide to local communities.
“Ensuring students of all ages can access mental health support is one of my priorities and I’m pleased we’re providing additional funding for colleges to develop their front-line support services.
“It’s also been an important principle for me that Further Education staff receive parity of pay with school teachers, so I’m delighted that this year’s pay increase has been agreed.”
Dafydd Evans, Chair of the Colleges Wales Principals’ Forum, said: “We are pleased to offer all FE staff a 2.75% pay rise and an additional rise to those entering the teaching profession.
“Our ongoing partnership with the Welsh Government will enable learners and employers to gain the skills they need while ensuring that FE colleges provide dynamic and rewarding careers for staff.”
NEU Cymru welcomed the extra funding for FE.
David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union Cymru said: “The pay rise for those working in FE in Wales is welcome. As well as extra support for much needed mental health provision. We hope that the support for mental health services will extend to those education professionals employed in FE. We know they work hard and need support.
“Pay parity with teachers was always the Commitment to the Welsh Government, as recognition of the parity of the roles. Education professionals in the FE sector are under a lot of pressure, but we hope this will go some way towards helping support FE into the new Century.
“We look forward to seeing the details and hope the funding will enable FE to continue as a much-valued service, supporting young people in Wales.”
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