The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has a global and inclusive outlook, with approximately 30,000 students. It is ranked 28th in the Guardian university league table 2020, is one of the top 10 universities in the UK for student satisfaction, with a record 89% of UWE Bristol’s final year students satisfied with their course overall. It has also been awarded the highest possible rating in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF), achieving GOLD Standard.
For the University, employability is key. It works across industry, to identify skills shortages, develop courses and provide work opportunities for its students. Everything is focused on making sure students are best positioned for the future they want, academically, practically, professionally and socially. Currently, 95% of its graduates are in work or further study six months after graduating, which is higher than the national average.
Mark Stewart who is General Manager and HR Director at Airbus UK, says: “Having people with the right skills is vital to our continued and future success. UWE Bristol has a key role to play in understanding our current and future skills needs, and developing the programmes necessary to deliver first-class graduates with both the technical expertise and professional abilities we require.”
UWE Bristol has developed a strong link with the business community, with networks and connections comprising over 1,000 employers.
As well as setting up its students for success and providing the industry with ready-and-able graduates, the University also works with businesses to deliver successful solutions with sector-specific expertise, innovative thinking, and research. Projects can run for just a few days to months or years. It offers incubation and enterprise support, consultancy services, access to specialist facilities, grant funding and professional development.
One example of how the University works with businesses is through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). UWE Bristol is one of the most active universities in the region for delivering KTPs. This Government-supported scheme enables organisations to recruit a talented graduate, based full-time in the business, who will drive and deliver a strategic project with weekly support and input from an academic. In the past 25 years, UWE Bristol has coordinated around 100 projects across 80 organisations.
A big part of the University’s ethos is to encourage students to adopt an enterprising and entrepreneurial ethos throughout their studies.
Neha Chaudhry, who graduated with an MSc Marketing and BSc in Product Design Technology, went on to set up a business with a flagship product called Walk to Beat. This ‘smart stick’ is a walking stick for people with Parkinson’s disease. It monitors walking patterns and gives a vibratory cue felt in the handle. The product has attracted the attention of the NHS and Parkinson’s UK charity.
Says Chaudhry: “It seems unbelievable that I made something which could really help people, even if it’s to a small extent. It’s a great feeling for me – and the patients are so happy somebody is thinking of them.”
As part of UWE Bristol’s multi-million-pound University Enterprise Zone (UEZ), Future Space offers incubation and scale-up space for businesses to flourish. It offers offices, labs and co-working spaces for entrepreneurs, innovators, and high tech businesses. Currently, some 37 companies are resident within the space, which employs over 200 people, and has so far raised funding of over £10.3m.
It was during its residency in Future Space that Reach Robotics developed an augmented reality gaming robot called Mekamon. Co-founded by UWE Bristol graduate Silas Adekunle, Reach Robotics was able to grow its team, test and develop its robots and prepare for investment without the distraction of having to run its own office building. The highly successful company now sells its robots in Apple stores.
Robotics is one of many areas that UWE Bristol is known for when it comes to research. As well as developing personally adaptive robotic systems to support independent living for the elderly, it is also collaborating with health organisations, industry, government agencies and charities to transform lives.
Its Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) is reaching millions of young people with body confidence, thanks to its research to improve body image and is the world’s largest research group focusing on the role of appearance and body image in people’s lives.
CAR has a partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project, the social mission of Dove (Unilever’s personal care brand). It has helped Dove to develop and evaluate many of its educational programmes for schools, youth groups, and parents. The partnership was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award in 2016 and there are plans to reach a total of 40 million young people with body-confidence education by 2020.
Overall, the University’s goal is to be recognised for the success and impact of its professionally-recognized and practice-oriented programmes, strong industry networks and connections, its agile ways of working, and inclusive and global outlook and approach.
Professor Steve West, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, says: “There is a real passion and commitment to maximise our potential in these areas and continue to grow and develop. That’s why we’re taking UWE Bristol forwards with huge ambition and confidence.”