Hereford ‘breaking the mould’ of higher education

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Hereford ‘breaking the mould’ of higher education

Image credit: Bond Bryan

The UK’s first new higher education provider in over 40 years has recently opened the doors to its latest addition, a new-state-of-the art campus in Hereford.

Skylon Campus is the latest development in NMITE’s (the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering) expanding portfolio who has introduced two 700 sq metre workshops, the Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (CATT) and the Centre for Automated Manufacturing (CAM), located on Skylon Park in the Hereford Enterprise Zone.

NMITE’s vision is for both centres to become leading providers of manufacturing and timber education nationally and are currently offering a portfolio of sustainable built environment courses. This includes the UK’s first Bachelor of Science Sustainable Built Environment degree, alongside further courses in advanced and sustainable design and construction methods.

While low carbon construction and sustainable building methods have been on the construction industry’s agenda for the last few years, this signals a shift towards the weight of importance and relevance being placed on low carbon construction as an essential tool for those coming into industry, made even more poignant in the grips of a global climate crisis.

James Newby, President and CEO of NMITE said: “The Skylon Park building has created an incredible, sustainable learning environment for our students. It’s an ideal teaching hub for our new courses, Foundation Years and the Sustainable Built Environment BSc, a real game-changer for NMITE.

“The feedback we are getting from students and visitors alike is brilliant, allowing us to really cement our position within the local community. Hosting a variety of events has brought some big names in engineering to Herefordshire and we are really proud as to what has been achieved with Speller Metcalfe and Bond Bryan.”

NMITE is an institution backed by the government and industry, and aims to ‘break the mould’ of higher education.

One of the key differentiators for NMITE from other higher education organisations is how they have linked with industry to develop their entire offering of courses, proactively influencing how they upskill and produce students who are ready for the workplace.

Designed by Bond Bryan architects and delivered by contractor Speller Metcalfe, the new 2500 sq m ‘building of two halves’ has been developed using both timber and steel frames, which are distinctly divided into the steel frame workshop block and timber frame studio block.

Internally, Skylon Campus has been established as a ‘Living Lab’, showcasing a number of different timber and steel construction methods to provide a real-life learning environment – the intention for students to study and use current engineering equipment and techniques, so they are industry-ready when moving into employment.

As well as the workshops, the building houses five studios and further break-out spaces, which will provide NMITE with flexibility in developing future course content.

“Whilst the Skylon Campus could have been a full timber building, part of the learning process is to understand how to use materials to their strengths,” says Aditi Saxena, project architect and sustainability lead at Bond Bryan. “In some cases, timber just doesn’t perform as efficiently as steel – for example in the workshop spaces. This was part of the overall design approach – to incorporate different construction materials and methodologies to aid in the learning process of the students who would use the building.”

Building contractor Speller Metcalfe, who are well-known for their commitment to innovative and sustainable construction projects, was responsible for delivering the scheme which, having spanned covid and the ongoing challenge of material supply issues and price rises, delivered within time and on budget.

Procured under the Pagabo Medium Works Framework, the team played an active role in the design and development of the project, which will support NMITE in delivering their curriculum and boosting technical skills and productivity for the region and further afield:

Technical director at Speller Metcalfe, Adrian Speller said: “Being able to partner with NMTE in their delivery of this flagship scheme has been a unique opportunity, and one that we know will continue to influence industry both across the county, and nationally, for years to come.

“We know that there is a wealth of talented soon-to-be engineers chomping at the bit for an opportunity to study at the new Skylon Campus, and we are delighted to have played a part in educating the next generation.”

The institution is also taking a ‘radical’ approach to recruitment, with a target of 50/50 gender balance and recruiting students from non-traditional backgrounds such as military leavers and higher-level apprentices, supporting up to 25% of its intake with bursaries and scholarships to reach these targets.

The project is now a finalist in the Construction News Project of the Year (under £20m) category, as well as the West Midlands Constructing Excellence Building Project of the Year and Value awards categories, which are due to be announced in the coming months.

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