Artist's impression of what MK:U university will look like

New digital skills university planned for Milton Keynes

Plans have been unveiled for a new university in Milton Keynes focused on digital skills.

It is hoped that around 5,000 students will study for qualifications in areas such as digital, cyber, autonomy, robotics and artificial intelligence at the university, which is currently called MK:U.

The first undergraduate cohort is expected to start in 2023.

Microsoft has been named as a partner in the new university, alongside Grant Thornton, MK College and Tech Mahindra. The proposal is being led by Cranfield University.

An artist's impression of the inside of MK:U university

The first students are expected to enter MK:U in 2023

The Government and Microsoft share an aim to make Britain one of the leaders in technology and innovation. Chancellor Philip Hammond used last year’s Budget to announce more money for AI and triple the number of trained computer science teachers, while Microsoft has launched a digital skills programme that aims to ensure the country remains one of the global leaders in next-generation technologies.

Ian Fordham, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “We are passionate about ensuring that students leave university with the skills that businesses need both now and in the future.

“The vision for MK:U that Cranfield has outlined closely aligns with Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more and we are confident that this new institution will help ensure that students develop the skills they need to thrive in a digital economy.”

MK:U will offer accelerated two-year degrees, intensive three-year degrees with project placements, part-time/apprenticeship pathways and short courses/continued professional development.

The proposal will now go through an 18-month feasibility study, which will consider the planning, design and financing of the new university.

Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, said: “We look forward to working closely with Milton Keynes Council to create a smart university for a smart city. Cranfield is one of the UK’s most business-engaged universities and we already have strong links with Milton Keynes. I am delighted that, together with our partners, we will be helping to deliver the exciting vision of a new university for the city.”

Councillor Peter Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council, added: “For a long time, we’ve held aspirations for a bricks and mortar university in Milton Keynes to attract talented young people and for local students to attend, and this is a significant step towards the creation of MK:U. Through the MK Futures 2050 process, we identified how a university focused on technology could benefit our economy, especially coming alongside the development of the Cambridge-MK-Oxford corridor, which also holds great promise. This will be the first university anywhere designed as a response to the challenges facing cities today and in the future.”

Learn more about Microsoft’s Digital Skills Programme

Girl using Microsoft Surface Book

Microsoft has moved to tackle the digital skills gap in the UK by announcing plans to recruit an extra 30,000 digital apprentices through its own programme for its network of 25,000 partners in the UK; train 30,000 public servants for free in a range of digital skills; and make sure everyone in the UK has access to free, online digital literacy training that will prepare them for a world in which companies, schools and governments embrace technology to transform how they work.

Additionally, the technology firm also launched a Cloud Skills Initiative, which will train 500,000 people in the UK in advanced cloud technology.