News & Press
West London Institute of Technology joined calls to raise the profile of technical education during a recent visit from the UK’s new Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi MP, to Brunel University London.
During Mr Zahawi’s first London campus tour, he met with BUL staff, students and partners, including Dr Darrell DeSouza and Judith O’Neill from the merged college group HCUC. He lauded BUL for its support for students from underrepresented communities, with over 80% of BUL undergraduates coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the university now ranking 6th in the UK for social mobility in The Institute for Fiscal Studies and Sutton Trust figures.
During round table discussions with the Education Secretary, Dr DeSouza and Ms O’Neill joined Brunel’s Vice Chancellor and President Prof Julia Buckingham CBE and other partners to consider issues around technical training and education provision. HCUC is the umbrella group for Uxbridge College and Harrow College, and the lead partner for the West London Institute (WLIoT).
The importance of growing education and training provision in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects was discussed, as well as the need for greater parity between technical and academic education nationally, and for more to be done to raise the profile of Institutes of Technology.
Dr DeSouza said: “HCUC and WLIoT were very pleased to have this opportunity to join Brunel University London and our other partners in welcoming the Secretary of State to discuss the strengthening partnership work between BUL and HCUC. Increasing both the provision and the profile of technical education, in collaboration with local industry, will help pave the way for the UK to supply much-needed workforce skills, with more needing to be done to widen diversity and encourage inclusion in STEM subjects.”
Judith O’Neill, Assistant Principal – HE, IoT & Technical Vocational at HCUC, said: “We really appreciated having the chance both to celebrate our achievements and talk through some of the challenges. In particular, we were pleased to share how the academic partnership between BUL, HCUC and Pearson has culminated in the development of a new Higher National qualification, leading to an HND in Electronic and Electrical Systems Engineering or Computer Systems Engineering. We are hopeful this will be available for first teaching from September 2022. We also had the chance to raise awareness of challenges around securing staffing to teach higher technical provision.”
During the meeting Dr DeSouza, CEO and Group Principal of HCUC, also called for better information to be provided in local schools about post-GCSE options, so pupils had clearer choices around vocational and technical career paths and courses. The need to build on successful work done with school pupils to widen exposure to STEM subjects, such as through the pre-pandemic workshops at BUL’s STEM centre, was also discussed.
Prof Julia Buckingham CBE, Vice Chancellor and President of Brunel said: “We were delighted to host the Education Secretary to show him first-hand the impact we’re having at Brunel. We have a passionate commitment to and a strong track record in supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds, ensuring that they develop the skills they need for rewarding graduate jobs. With more than 80% of our undergraduates from underrepresented communities, and average graduate salaries in the top fifth of all universities, we are proud to help our students fulfil their potential.”
Andrew Dakers, CEO of West London Business, added: “We were delighted to be able to raise with the Secretary of State today the work that we must all do with parents and schools to raise the awareness of level 4 and 5 technical education pathways, underpinned by independent careers advice. Now we are getting to the other side of the pandemic we look forward to the ramp up of a national campaign to build recognition of the Institute of Technology brand.”
Mr Zahawi’s trip included a presentation on WLIoT, which is a joint collaboration between Brunel University London, HCUC, Fujitsu, Heathrow and West London Business. IoTs aim to provide a wide range of qualifications designed to help young people find rewarding, well paid work with local employers.
Uxbridge College students got a special VIP invitation to No. 10 as a ‘thank you’ for helping create the official Downing Street Christmas card.
The young designers made the trip on 1 December after Boris Johnson, in his capacity as local MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, commissioned them to create a festive panel for the reverse side of the card.
This year’s official card features Boris and Carrie Johnson’s pet dog Dilyn on the front, and student Tejinder Virdee’s hand-drawn and painted watercolour and acrylic of the No. 10 door on the back. Tejinder is pictured on Mr Johnson’s right. His design was chosen from 15 designs submitted by students age 16-20 years on Level 1 Art, Design & Media and Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art & Design. The design project was led by Roz Walecki, Course Team Leader in Art & Design.
The students watched the lights being switched on around the famous 20ft tree outside the No. 10 door each Christmas, then had their photo taken with Boris Johnson inside, along with college staff, Sue Tarrant, Head of Health, Social Care and Creative Arts; David Storer, Section Manager Art, Design & Media; and Juliette Jenkins, PA to HCUC Principal Dr Darrell DeSouza. The event took place when previous Covid guidance was still in place.
Boris Johnson said: “It was a real pleasure to welcome the students from Uxbridge College to Downing Street and have the opportunity to thank them in person for taking part in the design for the Downing Street Christmas card. All of the shortlisted entries were absolutely brilliant and I want to say thank you to everyone for taking part, and to Tejinder for his winning design showcasing the iconic No. 10 door.”
David Storer said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for our Art & Design students, and a real privilege to be part of the Prime Minister’s year in this way - this has certainly been an unforgettable opportunity. We are very proud of our students - they tackled this challenge head on with enthusiasm and individual creativity, producing wonderful and exciting interpretations of the traditional Christmas card. It was a unique inspiration to be meeting a brief for such a high-profile project, which will reach so many people.”
Dr Darrell DeSouza, CEO & Group Principal HCUC, said: “As our constituency MP, it is really nice that Boris Johnson has kept his local Uxbridge College students in mind for this project, particularly considering how busy he is as Prime Minister. It is extremely pleasing to be involved in such a lovely project and the students and staff would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to him for involving us in this.”
The students used a wide variety of traditional and digital techniques to produce the work as part of Uxbridge College’s work experience programme. The designs were aimed at reflecting the college’s diversity and commitment to British values.
GCSE English students past and present got the chance to meet poetry superstar Benjamin Zephaniah in a visit arranged as part of their resit programme.
The Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London chatted with the students about writing poetry, and using English to narrate one's life story.
The dub poet first shot to fame in the 1980s with his unique and accessible work, which is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica. More recently the poet, who is also severely dyslexic and did not learn literacy skills until he entered adult education, headed up the BAFTA-nominated Sky Arts series Life & Rhymes.
Benjamin said: “I really loved spending time with the students from Uxbridge College. They came to interview me, but it was much more than that. I got to know quite a lot about them too, and they were all interesting and talented people. It was like hanging out with creative friends, talking about life, and sharing ideas. I wish all 'interviews' were like that.”
Bianca Fanciullacci, Head of Cross College English and Maths, GCSE and Functional Skills, at Uxbridge College, who arranged the visit, said: “This was a brilliant opportunity for our students to learn about the power of poetry first hand – meeting Benjamin Zephaniah was definitely one of the highlights of their GCSE English learning. English and maths resits are a key part of college life which are taught in addition to students’ higher level courses where needed, and we make every effort to make them as lively and engaging as possible.”
The group who met Benjamin are also on Level 3 Performing Arts courses, based at Uxbridge College’s Praxis Theatre at the Hayes campus.