West Midlands universities help to spearhead £20m Institute of Coding

Aston University

Four West Midlands universities have been appointed to help create a new digital centre of excellence to develop coding skills among the next generation of programmers.

The new Institute of Coding will comprise a consortium of more than 60 universities, businesses and industry experts.

Helping to develop the £20m skills initiative will be Aston University, Birmingham City University, Coventry University and the University of Birmingham.

The initiative is being led by the University of Bath and in total, will involve 25 of the UK’s Higher Education institutions.
Businesses involved in the consortium include IBM, Cisco, BT and Microsoft plus a host of SMEs, as well as professional bodies such as the British Computer Society and CREST.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said: “A world-class pipeline of digital skills are essential to the UK’s ability to shape our future. By working together, universities, employers and industry leaders can help graduates build the right skills, in fields from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence to industrial design.

“The Institute of Coding will play a central role in this. Employers will have a tangible input to the curriculum, working hand-in-hand with universities to develop specialist skills in areas where they are needed most. As we have outlined in the Industrial Strategy, this is part of our ambition to embrace technological change and give us a more competitive edge in the future.”

Launched as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, the pilot programmes, located in Leeds, Devon and Somerset, Lincolnshire, Stoke-on-Trent and the West Midlands, will test how to reach out and support people with the cost of retraining.

The government has also invested £30m to test the use of artificial intelligence and edtech in online digital skills courses.

Professor Andrew Aftelak, Head of School for Computing and Digital Technology at Birmingham City University, said: “We are delighted that the Prime Minister has announced funding for the Institute of Coding which will help create a new generation of skilled workers fit to lead the ever-evolving industries that will shape the UK economy in the future.

“It is great to see so many universities from the region involved in this project which demonstrates the importance West Midlands and the fact that it remains at the forefront of new industries and the UK economy centuries after it was at the heart of the industrial revolution.”

Prof Peter Sawyer, Head of Computer Science at Aston University, said: “The announcement of the IoC is great news for computer science at Aston. Our strong links with employers, the value employers place on our graduates and our innovation in programme delivery through our degree apprenticeship programmes makes the IoC a perfect fit for us and our students.

“We’re proud that we’ll be playing a major role in the IoC by leading the work on provision for students who are already in employment, but our involvement spans almost all of the IoC themes, from student-led companies to widening participation – all areas were we have a strong track-record.

“The IoC will deliver huge benefits for students and employers in tech across England but Aston students and employers in the West Midlands in particular will find the quality and diversity of provision available undergoes a step change over the next few years.”