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Laser focused: what are the benefits of single-subject institutions?

From art colleges to medical schools, specialised higher education institutions are nothing new. However, Kaplan Pathways’ latest partner, The Engineering & Design Institute London takes this concept a step further, offering just one subject — Global Design Engineering. But what benefit does this laser focus offer to students?

Tedi London, Canada Water

"As specialist institutions tend to focus on more vocational subjects, they often build industry partnerships"

Opened in 2021, TEDI-London is a brand-new institution, but it has years of educational excellence behind it: the Institute was founded by international heavy-hitters Arizona State University, Kings College London and University of New South Wales. Its sole subject is available as both a BEng and MEng with integrated one-year master’s, as well as a one-year Cert HE.

“This single-subject approach offers students surprising benefits”

This single-subject approach offers students surprising benefits. First of all, when planning such an institution, everything from the classrooms, buildings and campus infrastructure can be designed with that subject in mind, for a completely tailored educational experience.

Plus, investment does not need to be spread between several departments but instead, can be channelled into high-tech engineering and design facilities, allowing students to hone vital practical skills. Thus, they can graduate with the technical knowledge needed to start – and succeed in – their career.

While the costs of pursuing an education keep increasing and international students in particular need to see a tangible benefit to know they’re getting value for money, this couldn’t be more important.

Additionally, as specialist institutions tend to focus on more vocational subjects, they often build industry partnerships, which also bring benefits to students. For example, TEDI-London collaborates with specially selected partners exclusively in the engineering field, including British Land, RS Components Ltd and Engineers Without Borders.

These collaborators inform the curriculum, advising on what is and isn’t needed from an industry perspective, shaping students to be work-ready graduates with the skills that employers need. Students also collaborate with partners directly, working on real industry projects, and benefitting from their expert advice and guidance on both their course and future career.

Business partners are unlikely to be the only source of expertise at specialist and single-subject institutions though – teaching staff are often hand-picked from industry too.

Many of TEDI-London’s teaching staff, for instance, still maintain positions working within the industry, meaning they can update students on developments in real time, and are ideally placed to oversee practical projects.

This is especially important for the Institute’s “Professionals in Training” as it calls them, who work on group projects from the very beginning of their course. Indeed, such a new type of institution allows for a new type of teaching, so TEDI-London’s curriculum is skills led and project based, offering a much-needed alternative for students unsuited to more traditional lecture-based education models.

Finally, such an institution offers great opportunities for peer collaboration. Class sizes are typically smaller – with students working in project groups of around six at TEDI-London, for example – allowing students to form closer bonds with both their peers and their tutors.

This effect is only accentuated at a single-subject institution. When all students are studying the same course, it can build a greater sense of community within the student body. Students will be surrounded by peers with similar interests and aspirations and will thus have a wide base of support not only from lecturers, but from their friends and flatmates who are studying the same topics and are working towards the same goals.

So, what does this hyper-focused approach mean for the future of higher education? Traditional, multi-subject universities will always hold strong appeal for many students, but for those who know what they want from their career and are keen to graduate with relevant skills and experience under their belt, a single-subject institution will be well-placed to support their aspirations.

Kaplan is certainly excited to be working with TEDI-London, and to see what the future holds for this fascinating area of education.

Kaplan International Colleges, London, 2016

About the author: This is a sponsored post by Clare Cairns, Senior Director, Student Recruitment and Admissions at Kaplan International. Clare has worked in the international education industry since 2008, leading a successful global recruitment team that advises students and parents on study abroad opportunities, and supports Kaplan’s valued partner agents.”


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