New Milton Keynes University gets big business backing

SOURCE: Hopson Architects
The winning design for the new Milton Keynes University by Hopson Architects.

By U2B Staff 

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Some of the biggest names in UK business have come together to form a supporters group for MK:U, the new STEM-focused university to be built in Milton Keynes.

The MK:U Business Supporters Group (BSG) counts among its members leaders from entities such as Network Rail, Santander, Capita, Aston Martin, PWC and Grant Thornton among others, who collectively employ over 200,000 people across the UK.

In addition to informing course design and offering student placements, BSG will lobby government to help create MK:U, which they see as a potential national asset that will contribute towards solving the digital skills gap and building a much-needed talent pipeline for the future. 


MK:U Chief Executive Professor Lynette Ryals OBE said the group’s formation is a reflection of the urgent need for a higher education institution built entirely with the aim of closing the gap between work and education.

“It shows how urgently UK businesses of all sizes want a new university that’s focused on bridging the gap between what students are currently taught and the skills businesses need employees to have in the real world.

“With the backing of some of the UK’s biggest businesses, MK:U can deliver thousands of new graduates in sectors like AI, robotics and digital where Britain must compete in the future,” Ryals said at the group’s launch event last week.

In a joint statement, the 33 businesses behind the supporters group said what they want are graduates with STEM knowledge, which they said is vital to their continued growth and success.

“All our industries are in the process of being revolutionised by digital technology, and we want to be on the forefront of this change. It is of ever-increasing importance to us to have staff with skills in areas like data science, cyber security, and artificial intelligence,” they said.

Milton Keynes University
Artist’s impression of what MK:U might look like. Source: Hopson Architects

Backed by Cranfield University and the Milton Keynes Council, MK:U is a flagship project of the MK Futures 2050 programme, which anticipates that the area’s population will more than double to hit half a million by 2050.

The city, located strategically at the centre of the Oxford-to-Cambridge arc, is the largest city in the UK that doesn’t have its own university. The MK:U project aims to change that. 

But rather than creating another cookie-cutter institution that functions in much the same way as any other, the MK:U will “go beyond the scope of the traditional university” to meet urgent technological and societal challenges. 

This means the university will be closely aligned to current business needs, offering course curriculum that’s constantly updated with the latest industry knowledge and designed to address the digital revolution facing industries everywhere.

It will focus on digital economy skills and practical, business-focused courses, and offer fast-tracked two-year degrees, a strategic move to meet urgent talent demands. It will also offer a range of degree apprenticeships in technology-related fields.

In addition, some courses are being co-designed with employers like Santander, whose UK head office is in Milton Keynes.


MK:U will also use its own University Quarter as a ​‘living lab’ to test out new concepts and ideas, and inspire Milton Keynes’ students and citizens. The project recently received a £30 million boost from Santander, described as “one of the biggest corporate gifts to British higher education” in recent years.

From its strategic location, MK:U will be accessible by well over 10 million people within an hour’s travel of the institution.

The university will be delivered in three phases over 15 years, accommodating 5,000, 10,000 and 15,000 undergraduates respectively. 

A global team led by London-based Hopkins Architects was recently named as the winner of the international competition to design MK:U.