Postgraduate Support Scheme (PSS)
Project: New Models for Employer Driven Postgraduate Provision in Engineering
In December 2013 the University was awarded just under £600,000 towards a 1.3million University initiative to help plug a UK skills gap in vital engineering skills – and give students a free postgraduate education. Projects were chosen for PSS funding by a panel including representatives from universities, HEFCE, the UK Council for Graduate Education and the National Union of Students.
More than 40 UK universities, including Derby, shared in HEFCE’s national £25million ‘Postgraduate Support Scheme’ (PSS) which supported 20 pilot projects – run jointly by universities and businesses – helping more than 2,800 first degree students into postgraduate education, particularly those less likely to progress to this level.
The University of Derby’s own project is worth £1.3million, with £598,933 coming from the PSS fund and the remainder from the University itself and commercial partners.
This project is delivering two new models for sustainable, employer driven postgraduate provision based on real work activity in the engineering sector. The full-time model MSc Innovative Engineering Solutions ,tests an innovative new ‘contract’ with employers (particularly SMEs) to stimulate their investment in postgraduate study and the recruitment of graduates. This work-based model also tests employability as a key driver to increase the propensity of students to commit to PG study.
Students on the MSc Innovative Engineering Solutions, whose course fees and travel costs have been paid, studied a taught programme at the University, where they concentrated on acquiring expertise in solving technical business problems in areas such as manufacturing, civil and infrastructure engineering, mechanical engineering, electronics, clean energy, architectural engineering, materials, mathematical modelling and supply chain improvement. They will then undertook a 24 weeks placement comprising a placement in company followed by either a related research project at the University’s Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering or remained in their workplace. The course is set-up so that employers can test graduates’ abilities with a view to potential employment – useful for small or medium-sized companies without a graduate programme – and students gain real skills, with job opportunities at the course’s end. The work they’ve undertaken could also contribute to Chartered Engineer status.
A new part-time model, an MSc Professional Engineering (Online), uses e-learning combined with work-based learning to open up postgraduate opportunities to groups of learners in the workplace who otherwise may not have considered postgraduate study.
The MSc in Professional Engineering, which was developed with the Engineering Council and is workbased, enables full time engineers to gain Chartered Engineer status and an MSc at the same time. The project has enabled students to study on line through University of Derby Online Learning (UDOL) without attendance in Derby. As well as catering for those with a traditional engineering degree it is also available to employees without traditional higher education qualifications.
In this case students’ employers or the students themselves have paid their tuition fees. The course will began in September 2014 and normally takes about 2 – 3 years to complete.
The evaluation of these new models includes a better understanding of employer and student motivations and will identify and quantify tangible benefits to employers and individuals of investing in PG study specifically in the areas of:
- Business impact and improvement
- Graduate recruitment
- Employability / career progression
- New Models of Employer Driven Postgraduate Provision in the Engineering Sector
In terms of sustainability, the project has also:
Develop a 'Return on Investment' toolkit for HEI's to identify and quantify the benefits to employers of investing in postgraduate education - using peer assessed ROI methodologies including the Kirkpatrick (1959) model of Training Evaluation, the Phillips (1978) ROI Methodology and the ABDI ROI Methodology (2005). This will be disseminated to other HEIs through conferences and academic papers.
Developed capacity amongst employers to facilitate and mentor postgraduate learning in the workplace by the study of a Certificate of Continuing Professional Development (Mentoring Learners in the Workplace). 24 students were enabled to study this certificate through support for their fees.
A consortium of up to 30 employers has worked with the University to recruit 50 students with First or 2:1 Class degrees from engineering or related disciplines, such as design. Priority has been for students from backgrounds where going into higher education is not a given or groups under-represented in engineering, including women to enter the courses. Most of the 50 students are presently undertaking in company projects and will be showcasing their work on 8th
Professor Philip Plowden, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Derby, said: “The Confederation of British Industry recently reported that UK businesses were suffering a shortage of highly skilled workers in manufacturing, engineering and other areas vital to the UK economy.
“The University of Derby’s bold new initiative, and that of our partner universities in the Postgraduate Support Scheme, will ease students’ progression into further study, which will be designed with employers to meet their specific needs.
“Along with our new Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering, which will play a significant role in the PSS, it’s a sign of Derby’s commitment to working closely with businesses and providing real world learning.”
Steve Egan, HEFCE Interim Chief Executive, added: “The range and innovative approaches in the schemes which universities have devised to increase take up of postgraduate courses is impressive. We will work closely with the projects to see what is working well and to communicate this widely, to build strong foundations for this critical aspect of higher education.”