As this column went to press, it seemed likely that NMITE, our own Herefordshire university project, would be mentioned in the White Paper this week on the Government’s flagship policy of Levelling Up across the UK. And it was.
Its mention was an extraordinary tribute to the work done over the last few years by the team at NMITE, including students, staff, business partners, supporters and donors.
It means that an institution which only opened its first course last September is already making waves in Whitehall and Westminster, and is seen by the Government as offering a potentially transformational model in skills-based higher education: a model that could potentially be rolled out in other towns and cities across the UK.
Note the emphasis on skills. Many would say that the Holy Grail of higher education lies in how its many benefits can be given to the widest array of potential students, from every walk of life and regardless of race, sex, creed or background.
Sometimes it is assumed that this can only be done with a reduction in standards. But the evidence from Olin College, on which NMITE is partly based, is the exact opposite. Olin shows that learning based on specific projects, developing practical skills backed by focused academic training in key areas, and teamwork can be both more accessible and inclusive, and of higher quality.
The focus of NMITE is not just on those who are already academic high-fliers, but on young people who can show their curiosity, passion, grit, creativity, and collaboration.
NMITE is now rapidly gaining momentum. It should bring huge benefits to Ross-on-Wye, through partnerships with local companies such as Ultrafilter, And since higher education is closely tied to economic growth, NMITE’s expansion means not only a wealth of new opportunities for younger people in Ross, but new investment and a long-term boost to jobs and wages across the county.
Six young people from Herefordshire Sixth Form College are among the students already at NMITE. That’s six students getting a fantastic education and an Open University degree in this county, who would never have been able to do so before. Soon I hope the same will be true for John Kyrle pupils as well.
If we all get behind this project, these students will be the first of thousands, bringing massive new educational opportunity and economic growth to our county.
Learn more by visiting: https://nmite.ac.uk.
First published in the Ross Gazette