Diploma learning projects

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Ambitious plans are moving forward to establish a technical university in South Essex, backed by leading employers including Olympus and Ford.

The new technical university could see the apprenticeships of the first degree offered next year.

The South Essex Association of Local Authorities (ASELA) says it hopes to enroll students in a range of vocational courses from September.

The association is currently in talks for a university to join the system for validating diploma courses, but it is unlikely that they will be provided in a university establishment.

Instead, companies in South Essex including Ford, DP World, Leonardo and Olympus will offer on-site workplace courses.

The association, formed by the councils of Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford, Southend, Thurrock and Essex, says the technical university has “the potential to transform current higher education provision with a comprehensive and cohesive portfolio of courses work-based learning, including degree-granting apprenticeships, both for young people and the retraining of existing employees”.

Ian Gilbert, councilor responsible for economic recovery, regeneration and housing at Southend Council, said: “We’re not really talking about a traditional campus-based university. Port of Tilbury, Ford, Southend Airport and a few other big companies are very interested in it.

“We are looking for an academic partner who would validate the diplomas but he will learn with jobs in various companies. The plan is to welcome the first students by September 2023. We would start with a small cohort and build on that.

Cllr Gilbert added: “The courses are not finalized, but it will be things like engineering, ITC and business administration.”

In a report, ASELA said, “The program will reach out into the school system to encourage students from communities that historically would not have seen higher skills as accessible.

“A full business case is in preparation which will set out the steps for finding a higher education provider to offer the first tranche of degree learning courses from September 2023.”

A report to Southend Council’s Policy and Resources Committee, which will meet on September 1, says two more companies have confirmed their support for the establishment of the university.

The association’s joint committee is working on a business case and financial model for the university and the creation of a business advisory forum to support broader business interest around the university.


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