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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.