News release

First MK:U pilot Degree Apprenticeship programmes open

New-model university, MK:U, pilots first four Level 6 pilot Degree Apprenticeship courses in partnership with Grant Thornton UK LLP.

  • Businesses can use their Apprenticeship Levy to recruit /upskill employees with university education.
  • Up to 200 learners in management, data science, digital technology, and cyber security to begin Degree Apprenticeship courses in September 2021.
  • MK:U is led by Cranfield University and Milton Keynes Council has support of over 100 businesses including Santander, Network Rail, and McAfee.

MK:U, the proposed new-model university in Milton Keynes, will be piloting its first four Degree Apprenticeship courses. Announced today, MK:U has formed a strategic partnership with Grant Thornton UK LLP to design and deliver the courses from September 2021. The two organisations are working together to help businesses make the best use of their apprenticeship levy to upskill their workforce and to recruit new talent to help them grow.

Backed by Cranfield University and Milton Keynes Council, MK:U will address the urgent technological and skills gaps that exist in the UK economy. The vision for the new, ground-breaking university is one that is hands-on, focused on a curriculum for the digital economy, and specifically addressing the employment needs of organisations in the 21st century.

The pilot programme is supported by South East Midlands Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) through the Local Growth Fund and by Santander which has already cited MK:U as one of the reasons for its decision to make a £150 million investment in a new headquarters building in Milton Keynes. The first cohorts will be trained from MK:U’s new temporary home in Bouverie House in the city centre and just five minutes’ walk from Central Milton Keynes station, although learners will be offered exceptional flexibility to attend in person, online, or to catch up later.

Plans for the realisation of MK:U’s permanent home continue to be developed by Cranfield University, Milton Keynes Council and its business supporters, who are all pressing the government to support MK:U.

The first four Level 6 BSc degree apprenticeships, available from September 2021, are:

  • Chartered Manager
  • Data Scientist
  • Cyber Security
  • Digital and Technology Solutions

Employers and would-be apprentices can find out more about these opportunities at a series of free online events that MK:U is running from 7-11 June.

Professor Lynette Ryals OBE, Chief Executive of MK:U Ltd and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Cranfield University, said:

“This is an important stepping stone in the plans for the realisation of MK:U. For businesses, this is the chance for their employees to access the latest business-focussed thinking in higher education, using their Apprenticeship Levy. For employees, it is a chance to get a high-quality university degree with a strong focus on new and emerging technologies without having to bear tuition fees.

“Our pilot courses have been the result of extensive engagement with businesses both large and small and help them address the critical skills gaps that they face. As we develop plans, alongside our partners, for the realisation of MK:U, we will be continuing to work with businesses to develop an educational programme that meets the skills needs of the 21st century.”

Dave Dunckley, CEO of Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:

“This announcement marks an exciting next phase for our partnership. MK:U is truly aligned to business needs and will help organisations address the digital revolution taking place in their global market place. Businesses across all sectors require talent with digital and management expertise and MK:U has been designed with industry experts to meet those requirements.”

Cllr Pete Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council, commented:

“MK:U is an incredibly important part of our proposals to attract the best and brightest people to MK. We look forward to continuing our work with partners to bring this project to life and help us make MK an even greener and cleaner city as well as a fairer and kinder one.” 

Hilary Chipping, Chief Executive of SEMLEP, noted:

“Located at the centre of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc, these new MK:U digital-focused Degree Apprenticeship Courses will unlock opportunities for young people and businesses alike. We’re proud that our funding will support this essential area of learning, generating a future supply of employees with digital skills.”

MK:U will be launching an Innovation Hub in 2022, including a small business scale-up programme and a high-technology makerspace alongside a UK-leading Advanced Communications Laboratory.