We are now in the last month before NMITE opens its doors for the first time on September 6th. It is incredibly exciting to think that an institution is about to be born that--with our continued collective love and support--could lift the economy and well-being of Herefordshire and the Marches forever.
Fittingly, NMITE is making a radically different offer to its students. You do not need a maths A-level in order to get in. What you will emerge with is a three year Masters, not a BA, in Integrated Engineering, focused not simply on theoretical and academic accomplishment but on solving real-world problems in teams. That is, on actually being an engineer.
What do you need in order to get in? As the NMITE website makes clear, they are looking for five qualities in a student: grit, curiosity, passion, creativity and collaboration. They want students who can deal with adversity, who can demonstrate an ability to learn and think independently, who have deep interests or hobbies, who can work imaginatively through and around problems, and who are team players.
Again, I find this incredibly exciting. It recognises that while academic achievement is important, what really matters is as much heart and soul as mind. Many people are not born academics, but they achieve astonishing results because they are driven to explore the world, their own interests and ultimately themselves.
If you want a checklist for the qualities of the most interesting, worthwhile, inclusive and positive contributors to our society, then grit, curiosity, passion, creativity and collaboration are about as good as it gets.
NMITE will start in September with a cohort of student pioneers. Yes, there is a very useful £4,000 bursary to help them get started. Yes, I expect they will receive the kind of care and attention that is all too often missing from universities across the UK, but which NMITE intend to make their hallmark.
But above all, those young people will be proving the value of a new kind of skills-based student education. My hope is that every one of them will look back in fifty years’ time and say that this was one of the best things they did in their lives, for themselves and for others.
So if you’re thinking about university in the next few weeks, or you know someone who is, go to www.nmite.ac.uk, and see if that energy and passion are for you.
Jesse Norman writes for the Hereford Times