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Janusz Kozinski, vice-chancellor, New Model in Technology and Engineering (NMiTE), UK

Teaching and learning by doing is a key phrase for Jaunsz Kozinski, the vice-chancellor of NMiTE, the new engineering and tech HEI which will open its doors to its first cohort of students in 2018. The PIE News spoke to Kozinski about the innovative recruitment methods and other facets of what he hopes will be a hands-on experience for students and staff alike, and unlike anything students coming to the UK for study will have seen before.

The PIE: NMiTE is a new project, tell us how you will incorporate internationalisation?

We believed that money should be neither an obstacle nor a barrier [to education]

Janusz Kozinski:  With regards to the student body, what we would like to do is to have around 50% of students coming from the UK, especially from the area of the Midlands.

We would like to get another 25% of students from other parts of the UK and Europe and the final 25% from all over the world. Essentially what we are trying to do is build a relatively well balanced student body. But perhaps what really matters to us most is to make certain that we are going to bring (more) female students than other engineering institutions.

“If it’s Valentine’s Day, then we want them to print a heart for their mum or their girlfriend or boyfriend”

Our goal is to get the balance, it may take some time because I was shocked when I came to the UK and I learned that in the UK in engineering departments, less than 10% of were female students. This is really very very low.

There are a few phases that we are going to implement. The first one actually is happening right now. We are going to have a group of around 25 students joining us in September. We are calling that group the design cohort. They are going to help us design the university. Especially some aspects of our academic program and some elements of our studios and laboratories and equipment and some of our services and so on.

The PIE: Will they be degree earning students?

JK : Not them. For them it will be like an internship in a sense. They will be, I don’t want to call them our employees, but we are going to pay for their accommodation, they will receive a stipend from us, and that group will include several, perhaps up to half, international students.

We are really in the forefront of engineering education so a lot of colleagues from all over the world  want to come to Hereford and see what we are doing and they share that knowledge with their students.

I have also quite a few students from my previous institution in Toronto. They really like to come and learn what we are doing on one side, on the other hand help with designing something new. Some of them would come for half a year so it’s their international placement. Some of them would come for a year.

I remember when we were creating Lassonde School of Engineering in Toronto where we created it back in 2013. I remember the university were pushing us to do it quickly because more students means more revenue. But if you do it too fast, then it’s inevitable that you’re going to compromise on some other things.

The PIE: Will your work at York and colleges around the world form a basis of recruitment relationships when you move on to the next steps?

JK: There will be some link but it’s not going to be the foundation. What we did is develop the concept of design studios or ‘tinker-trucks’ if you will.

“We are  in the forefront of engineering education so a lot of colleagues from all over the world  want to come see what we are doing”

We are going to adapt several typical containers, we are going to fit them in with things we are going to have at the university, some furniture, colouring 3D printers, laser-cutters and so on. We are going to have at least a few of those and what we would do is rather than ask for organising open house or open days for students to come.

We are going to go to them. We are going to take those containers on a truck right to their schools. Leave it there for a couple of days or a week. Our design cohort students perhaps, with some of our faculty members as well, so these students in the high school they would have an opportunity to talk first hand with our staff, with our students and they will be able to see what is it that they would expect.

The PIE: Will you take that to the EU too?

JK: Yes absolutely. By the way, it is part of our outreach program and partially it is also a part of marketing. We are just waiting for an answer from one of the major foundations here in the UK, because it may be that we will receive around £1 million to support this initiative.

If we say that our university is all about learning by doing, by creating, we want them to come during the break in their classes in their high school or sixth form. We want them to come to our container, test it out, have the 3D printer. If it’s Valentine’s Day, then we want them to print a heart for their mum or their girlfriend or boyfriend and so on. We want them really to test things out with their own hands.

The PIE: Why take this approach, rather than the traditional HE marketing methods?

JK: We felt that the most appropriate way is to go straight to students.

We are not going to send ‘tinker-trucks’ to other countries like Canada but I think one way to recruit students who are far away [is] partnerships. For example, we’ve created a very good partnership with Olin, School of Engineering.

We have a good partnership with my former school, Lassonde.  We have some links with colleagues from India for example, as in Germany, France. What we felt was if you create a partnership with another institution, they will also help bring some students that will come to our institution. It could be that it’s just an exchange student, it could be that they come for one year, it could be that they will do their bachelors at our partner institution and then come and do masters at our institution or vice-versa.

Creating a healthy partnership is really a foundation of anything that you do in academia. In order to be successful, you don’t want to be isolated.

The PIE: The partnership with Olin, can you tell me why that is so deep and how that came about?

Janusz: It happened before I came. The people who initiated the project included Jesse Norman, the local MP, they really wanted to [ look for] partners… that are truly focussing on learning, education and they are not afraid to do something different and new and bold.

Olin came in as one such institutions. They reached out to Olin and they responded enthusiastically. So we have a very good partnership with Olin. Sometime this fall we are going to have a few faculty from Olin coming to work with us on development on of our academic program.

I visited Olin some time ago when I was still in Canada. It was eye-opening. You can’t mimic exactly Olin because they are a small institution. I think they have 250 students, so it’s a different way to deal with 250 students rather than 3,000. But… I learned a lot from them mostly about how students help fellow students.

“Creating a healthy partnership is really a foundation of anything that you do in academia”

The PIE: Does NMiTE have anything to do with George Osborne’s ‘Midlands Engine’?

JK: George Osborne was the first figure who put funding for our institution in the budget. I think it was back, maybe 2016, it took a year and something to get it all materialised. He was the one who really offered a strong support for the institution.

The PIE: Is there going to be a funding structure to allow students who we know don’t participate, especially in mobile study?

JK: We believed that money should be neither an obstacle nor a barrier. I also believe that it’s good to pay some fair share of education.

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