back to article James Dyson's new startup: A university for engineers that doesn't suck

After years of supporting traditional academia, Sir James Dyson is putting serious cash behind a new startup – his own engineering university. Successful students from the Dyson Institute of Technology will graduate from the four-year engineering course with an engineering degree accredited by the University of Warwick. But in …

  1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    It may not suck, but I bet it will be turbulent years for the students..

    Sorry.

    1. Known Hero
      Paris Hilton

      Who Dared to downvote that comment, it didn't suck at all.

      *icon... yes well ......

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It may not suck

      My worry is that the students will be working in a vacuum.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: It may not suck

        "My worry is that the students will be working in a vacuum."

        A legit worry -but the way it's set up, at least they won't be under the pressure that some students are.

        1. Cynical Observer
          Coat

          Re: It may not suck

          All this worry and needless hand wringing...

          When they finish they can dust off their qualification. ..... oh wait....

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: It may not suck

            I'm a fan of this idea!

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: It may not suck

              If you are a fan, I don't see you having much chance getting in there.

              1. Mark 85 Silver badge

                Re: It may not suck

                Perhaps he will. Dyson does make some air movement devices that are replacements for room fans. Some even have air warmers in them. So I suppose if one is a fan of hot air, they'll get an automatic acceptance?

    3. Faux Science Slayer

      Please....teach Traditional English Scientific Method & Thermodynamics !

      coasttocoastam.com/show/201/03/15 > Climate Change & Thermodynamics

      "Spencer Sorcery on Magic Gas".... end the " warming" gas myth !

  2. sisk Silver badge

    If I lived reasonably close this would make me seriously consider getting a third degree. I really like the idea behind this. I mean, come on. Real-life work experience while getting an engineering degree, zero debt when you finish, and you get to rub elbows with the likes of Dyson*? What's not to love here?

    * Yes, yes, I know he's not THAT Dyson, but he's still a major name in the field.

    1. Oh Matron!

      Couldn't agree more. I came away from uni with skills woefully out of date. This is a great idea, and I hope that it takes off.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Dyson is a bit of an IPR zealot

        There was recent TV coverage from inside Dyson HQ where not only (perhaps understandably) had much of the development area been covered up, but the R&D staff made it very clear that their personal notebooks had to be checked in and out of locked storage at the opposite ends of the working day and that they were under strict purdah when it came to discussing any details of their job with anyone else.

        Now, I realise that this has made Dyson a very wealthy man. On the other hand, the advancement of human knowledge requires co-operation and I would hope this is something that would be communicated to students. Along with a sense of perspective - at the end of the day, it's just another bloody vacuum cleaner.

        1. Christian Berger Silver badge

          Re: Dyson is a bit of an IPR zealot

          "... but the R&D staff made it very clear that their personal notebooks had to be checked in and out of locked storage at the opposite ends of the working day and that they were under strict purdah when it came to discussing any details of their job with anyone else."

          I am not sure how much of that is PR (look how innovative we are, we cannot even tell you what we are working on) and how much is legitimate. However considering that Dyson is one of the more innovative companies and how much even completely non innovative companies seem to care about such things, it seems proportionate.

        2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Dyson is a bit of an IPR zealot

          Every engineering/science company in a competitive environment attempts to maintain details of their products a secret from their rivals. Once a product comes to market then it is protected by patents (many of which are not hot air nonsense) which mean that they can read and learn from published details (OK I know a number of pharmaceutical companies in particular maintain the details of manufacturing processes, often the difficult bit secret, patenting only the use of a new material). And patents have a limited life span - just see the number of Dyson copies on sale now at significantly reduced prices from the originals.

          If they do not patent them, then potentially reverse engineering can throw them open to competition.

          My company (small and very specialised) provides mathematical analysis and modelling services to a range of companies and government bodies. Leaving aside government work, much of our commercial work is highly sensitive. We maintain a high level of protection by being careful about (a) maintaining notebooks within our offices, (b) severely restricting external access to any of our production computing infrastructure and (c) keeping generally well respected barriers between projects that might present dilemmas of this sort.

          This approach also has the benefit of making sure that most people do not take lots of work home with the - it is popular (half of our employees have significant shareholdings) and I believe it does improve work life balance for most.

        3. Korev Silver badge

          Re: Dyson is a bit of an IPR zealot

          the R&D staff made it very clear that their personal notebooks had to be checked in and out of locked storage at the opposite ends of the working day

          This is what the big pharma that I worked for operated when we used to use paper lab notebooks. The only surprise is that they're still using paper notebooks.

    2. Dabooka Silver badge

      re: Third degree

      Doubt you would be able to.

      I think the idea is great but I bet this will be how Dyson will be utilising their levy payment, so previous degree = no application.

      Personally I really hope it works out and others take the same approach.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time

    Is that a one day week for 48 weeks a year?

    Or does 1 day for 4 years at Dyson = 5 days for 3 years at a trad university?

  4. G R Goslin

    Sounds like...

    To me, an ex-apprentice, it sounds exactly like the old-fashioned apprenticeship, except that your employer is also your tutor. A brilliant idea. Bring it on.. Not so sure about the degree, though. What's wrong with the old ONC/HNC. As someone who had to re-teach Engineering Degree graduates that came into my field, that experience is the best teacher, Degrees are far too airy-fairy. Many times, I've had to tell a graduate "You can't do that." and in answer to his query, "Because it's not physically possible"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds like...

      I got an HNC Computer Engineering from my local Tech College many (many) moons back which got me my first job as a Software Engineer. I doubt I'd even make the interview list with just that now :((

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like...

        Agree. I did Computing Science back in the 1980s when it was a proper degree and did engineering. I've just been turned down for an Engineering Masters because I "haven't got an engineering degree". For a course where according to the course documentation they cover nearly exactly the same as I did 30 years ago.

    2. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Sounds like...

      Exactly.

      During my apprenticeship mumble years ago, we used to get folk on sandwich courses turn up for a few weeks in the summer. Some were 4 or 5 years older than us and utterly clueless (generally, not just the work). Can't beat time on the job alongside the classroom to keep you grounded.

    3. GreenThumbStick

      Re: Sounds like...

      Yes it sounds like an engineering apprenticeship, but that's a good thing. Most engineers on University courses are longing to turn theory into doing something practical and useful. You learn so much more than Uni when you start real work as you are always teaching yourself whilst working on things.

  5. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    @ AC

    It's not 1 day a week. It's one day a week in the classroom/lecture theatre and 4 days a week doing "real stuff". Think about it more being having lots of lab work - but instead of the lab work being 2 hours a day for 2 or 3 days a week (as it was <cough> decades ago for me), it'll be 7 1/2 hours of lab work for 4 days a week.

    @ G R Goslin

    Yes, it does sound a bit that way. But these days, I suspect few would recognise the old ONC/HNC qualifications, and those that do recognise them would probably look down at them. As long as it's done right, I think a degree is perfectly reasonable.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Ah the old ONC/OND

      I got 4 distinctions in ONC Mech eng circ 1972.

      No university would consider me for a degree course until I said that I has 'A' level Eng Drawing and Applied Maths.

      Went to a Poly instead. Much better education. Far more real world than a Uni. Sadly those days are long gone when the Polys turned themselves into Uni's.

      I think this move by Dyson has merits. At the very least those coming out will have decent problem solving abilities. Something IMHO that most graduates that I have inteviewed in recent years lack.

      1. HmmmYes

        Re: Ah the old ONC/OND

        It saddnes me that it is almost impossible to do a day release Degree over 5-6 years, or even manage to do an A level in Maths at night school.

        A fortune is spent of FE. Most of it is wasted.

        Fe needs shutting down and startign again.

        Mind you, so does a lot of HE.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: Ah the old ONC/OND

          I ended up doing a HND Mech Eng, plus final two years BEng, the HND was more practically orientated than a pure degree, while still having all the prep needed Maths/ Physics etc wise, it was quite a good combination. Don't think having four years rather than three at Uni was a bad thing as well ;) , although this was before fee paying.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    British citizens only I presume as Dyson was such a vociferous supporter of the Leave campaign?

    1. Known Hero
      Mushroom

      can we get an auto deny filter to any topics with outside of brexit artic1es

      "leave" "brexit" "remain" "article" "50" "British" "citizen" "immigrant" "trump" "hillary"

      We will make do with what is left of the english language to get by :(

      *where is my middle finger icon

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge
        Joke

        Oh no no no no...Brexit affects and will affect every aspect of our lives and the lives of our great-grandchildren, so it's perfectly allowable to throw in Brexit flamebait/trollbait in the comments to anything. In fact there is a case for banning any IT-related discussion until after the whole Brexit thing is flushed down the pan.

        Speaking of which...

        Have you noticed that all the Wrexiteers commenting on the High Court judgement clearly have absolutely no understanding of the legal issues involved? T#Their total lack of ability to undertake critical and informed thinking does rather explain the 52%. </flamebait>

        1. Spudley

          Wrexiteers? Uh, those who want to leave Wrexham?

        2. Cynical Observer
          Pint

          @ Pen-y-gors

          It's Friday and you deserve this IMNSHO

          Have an up vote as well.

        3. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Well, universities and the research world will be, and is already being, greatly affected by the Brexit vote. So, legit topic, I would say.

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "Have you noticed that all the Wrexiteers commenting on the High Court judgement clearly have absolutely no understanding of the legal issues involved?"

          Generalising much?

        5. itzman
          Headmaster

          Brexit affects....

          ..the whole world , forever,

          In a deterministic Universe, what doesn't?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Brexit affects....

            In a quantum universe, it affects yesterday too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      British citizens only I presume as Dyson was such a vociferous supporter of the Leave campaign?

      Jeez, you remoaners are the most bigoted lot of haters on the planet. You seem to think that everyone who disagrees with you does so because of xenophobia. Get a clue.

  7. Blue Pumpkin

    Phase 6 : Reward for the uninvolved

    "after encouragement from Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, who was naturally chuffed ..."

    .. at being able to take credit for something he was not involved in, nor had to fork out any money for, while still being able to neglect the rest of the system that piles huge amount of debt onto young people ...

    But but but Brexit will solve it all for us of course .... and world hunger while it's at it.

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    There have been times when I have thought James Dyson to be a bit of an arse but this is great idea and deserves to succeed. My one question, no two questions are will the graduates be tied to Dyson for a period after graduating ? How good and relevant to the world will the curriculum be.

    For many reasons I hope this idea works, who knows, it could change the way Unis are run eventually.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      "it could change the way Unis are run eventually."

      I hope not. This seems a great way of training practical engineers, but that isn't what University should be about. Vocational courses are great if you want to train experts in a particular practical field. But they don't provide a rounded education for the whole person, which is what university traditionally was.

      University is a 3or 4 year 24/7 experience, not just x hours in a classroom followed by a piece of paper. It's about meeting lots of different people, living in a hall and mixing with people from totally different disciplines and backgrounds, getting involved with extra-curricular activities, learning to cope with all sorts of practical challenges - getting involved in running Student Unions and clubs etc. In many disciplines it's about teaching ways to think and to analyse the world, not a long list of facts and techniques that may be rapidly outdated. I learned Algol W and Fortran IV at Uni, never needed them outside - but I still use the basic principles and approaches every day.

      Will The Dysonettes get all that, or just end up as rich and succesful product designers and engineers? Can you be a good designer without wider experience of the world? Or will you just end up designing pointless IoT Thingies?

      I wish it luck.

      1. IWVC

        Nothing is new

        @Pen-y-gors

        Many years ago, in the mid '60s Harold Wilson's Government set up about half a dozen new universities to concentrate on engineering and technology. Their "white heat of technology" phase. These included Aston, Brunel, Loughborough and Bath among others who concentrated on the "sandwich" degree. To get in you had to have the appropriate "O" and "A" levels along with a sponsor for the duration of the course. The sponsor was obliged to give the student practical experiencing in design, development, test and production of products along with (in my case at least) experience in tooling, plant and building maintenance and "back office" customer relations etc. The course was monitored by the appropriate Professional Institution and, usually, the sponsor promised a full time job at the end of the 4 or 5 year course. Various company schemes meant that the student was either paid on a full time basis or applied for a local authority grant (non repayable in those days) with a substantial bursary from the company in term time combined with full time pay when based at the factory. This type of course was not as narrow on the product side as " day release" courses and allowed participants the wider benefits of getting p!553d with other students, sorry the wider social benefits of mixing with others and independent living along with a much better appreciation of practical engineering. I do not know why this form of degree course seems to have died out but hopefully Mr Dyson's initiative will tempt industry and academia to consider reintroducing them.

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        "Can you be a good designer without wider experience of the world?"

        The short answer is no. And the same goes for engineers. Or doctors. Or ... - you get the idea. Because there is a big difference between training and education.

    2. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      It may be a great idea but, as noted further up the thread, it isn't an original idea. This is just returning to what many engineering shops used to do in the dim distant past before everything went to heck in a hand trolley; run apprentice schemes. Dyson is fortunate. He made so much money off shoring his manufacturing to Asia that he can afford it. The UK is in partial retro mode at the moment - Grammar schools, apprenticeships. What next? Full University grants instead of loans?

  9. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Sorry to be a doubter...

    But having worked in lots of companies, spending your uni degree learning one company's system of working is unlikely to help that much when you get out into the real world (unless you stick around at that one company for the rest of your days). No more so than a current uni degree.

    But thats not the main Problem. Britain doesnt need MORE Universities, it needs the current ones to be brought up to scratch, so that the students currently graduating actually have the skills that employers want. More Unis means the money gets spread around even thinner and the level of education across the board drops. That is not what anyone wants or needs...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Sorry to be a doubter...

      > the skills that employers want

      Employers want skills that either don't exist, that they are unable and unwilling to pay for or that are too specialized to be taught at uni.

      As an example, we are looking for "developers" that according to the "must have" feature list demands someone who has worked with practically everything since the eighties and who has more qualifications than his boss.

      1. PNGuinn
        Facepalm

        Re: Sorry to be a doubter...

        Having had the misfortune to have had to use some of my customers' dysons ... often badly cracked / broken / bunged up ... and finally passed the intelligence test of working out which bit of flimsy garishly coloured plastic one has to tweak to switch the bugger on ... only to discover I now urgently need my earplugs to prevent permanent hearing damage ... maybe the prospective 'students' will be able to bring some much needed design refinements to the company.

        Gimme a Henry or one of his chums any day. Quiet. Massive suction and a dirty great bag at a very reasonable price. The bag's also quite big enough for it's bigger brother George for most jobs.

        One of my customers borrowed mine (George) fitted with the slightly cheaper Henry bag AFTER I'd used it as dust extractor coring out a 4 in hole for his boiler flue and cleaning up afterwards for that, drilling holes for pipes, fitting the rads to the walls and cleaning up under the floor after notching a load of joists. Bag was by then somewhat loaded with sh*t.

        He used it to vac up a bit of loft space - with only the end of the hose - I didn't have any fittings with me that day - and commented that he was staggered how much suck it had compared to his dyson.

        Henry must be well over 30 years old now and has seen similar serious abuse in that time - including being rather too rapidly "taken" downstairs on several occasions. Only fault so far - mains lead core broke just by the moulded on plug. Repair cost <50p.

        Just works.

        1. Duffy Moon

          Re: Sorry to be a doubter...

          Upvote for the Henry. I seem to recall reading a consumer report saying that Dysons are the least reliable (Miele being the most) make of vacuum cleaner. People like the 'pretty' colours though.

          1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

            Re: Sorry to be a doubter...

            My dyson handheld is pretty convenient, and effective for small jobs. And it does mean that I actually get round to vacuuming upstairs from time to time as I don't have to lug the big and bulky one around.

            But Jesus, the cost of spares! Mine conked out a few weeks after the three years - turned out to need a new mains adaptor. Not a complicated piece of kit. £25 quid plus postage!

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Sorry to be a doubter...

          I have a Mercedes. It's been up and down stairs, in the cellar and the back yard, on the roof, sucking up all sorts of crap for 25 years and still works perfectly. All it's needed was a new filter casing last month.

        3. itzman
          Linux

          Re: Sorry to be a doubter...

          The only think wrong with a Henry is there is no Tux on the front.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: Sorry to be a doubter...

      "...so that the students currently graduating actually have the skills that employers want."

      I'm sorry, but that's exactly the problem we have today. Universities are aligning their courses to what employers want. The result are incredibly narrow minded studends who have never learned the basics of their field and are unable to cope with any change. From this you get people who spend 20 years doing the same. When they get layed off, they'll never find a propper job again.

  10. Peter Prof Fox

    Jolly good if...

    ...you want niche technologists. OTOH if you want *engineers* with a breadth of outlook over many technologies and different working environments then this is crap. This is day-release with the worrying addition of the employee unable to find an alternative employee and continue their course. So good old employee lock-in for 21st century.

  11. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Wouldnt it be cheaper to pay a decent wage to engineers?

    Then the engineers we have trained and educated might stay in this country.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Wouldnt it be cheaper to pay a decent wage to engineers?

      Exactly - when they say "we have lots of unfilled engineering vacancies but nobody is willing to work for us" they neglect to add "at the salary we are willing to pay".

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Wouldnt it be cheaper to pay a decent wage to engineers?

        Plus: "none of the applicants have all twelve of the ten essential skills we need"

  12. Wiltshire

    +10

    Anyone who's actually been to their Malmesbury HQ will know it's an inspirational place.

    Their design work and prototyping is world-class, and goes way beyond "just vacuum cleaners", for major brand names all over the world.

    They even have a Harrier jump jet right outside the main entrance. Proper stuff.

    1. Owain 1

      Malmesbury

      Shhh. Don't tell let on about Malmesbury. Nobody mention the lovely pubs, the friendly locals, the beautiful ancient abbey, the easy access to the M4, the local Michelin two-starred restaurant (recommend the tasting menu... Mmm!), Westonbirt Arboretum, the Abbey House gardens, riverside walks, the carnival, Boondocks festival, Womad festival, Outstanding rated Secondary school, Outstanding rated primary school... Nothing to see here. Move on, move on.

  13. Dr. G. Freeman
    Coat

    Just waiting for the inevitable Overseas operation...

    The International Dyson Institute of Technology (IDIoT)

  14. Doc Ock

    James Dyson took a lot of stick for moving his factory overseas but he's more than compensated by almost single handedly trying to rescue British engineering R&D. Hats off.

    A rare thing these days, the British Industrialist. It's all get rich quick wankers bankers and property sharks. If you've never been go to Cragside and see William Armstrong's house.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Upvote for both the tenor of the comment, and your mention of Cragside.

      Armstrong (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Armstrong,_1st_Baron_Armstrong) was incredibly inventive. Trained as a lawyer, but worked as a real engineer, and a scientist - even if some of his innovations (such as breech loading artillery) might not appeal to everyone. Cragside (in Northumbria, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cragside) was the first house in the world to be powered by hydroelectric power, wth mechanical hydroelectric being used from 1868 to drive machinery and from 1870 electricity. And he had 30 odd years of innovation before he got that far.

      The reg really should include Cragside in their occasional (and enjoyable) series from engineering firsts in the UK.

      My partner was responsible for archives at the Armstrong family trust for several years and was always coming back with a description of yet more innovation.

      Do visit it if you are in the area. It actually makes a good full day out. And the cafe is pretty decent as well. (It is owned by the National Trust)

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        +1 for Cragside. Good gardens as well, for the non-engineeering visitors.

  15. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Hmm, it could go both ways

    It seems like this would bring out more of the same we have now, teaching students a job instead of a field. If you do that, you'll end up with more and more narrow minded people.

    Education is not about getting a job, it's about learning new things for the goal of knowing more. Being more suitable for the more interresting jobs in the world is just a side benefit.

  16. PassiveSmoking

    Will it include a course to teach us what a "digital" motor actually freaking is?

    1. Duffy Moon

      Or how on Earth you get mugs to fork out three hundred quid for a bloomin' hairdryer!

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Nah, that's psychology, not engineering.

  17. John Styles

    In Malaysia presumably

  18. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: That Dyson guy...

      As opposed to a 'left flaming fag', maybe?

      His motivation is money, and producing first-class British engineers.

      For more noble and selfless Britishness, see the first four paragraphs of this ...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some engineering schools are co-ops

    Where you learn for a few terms then spend the next term (not always a summer term) at an engineering company as a student co-op. By graduation, you have a bit of work experience at different places and places to start potentially.

  20. Slx

    Is this not just a way for companies to effectively get 'free' or almost free R&D?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apprentice schemes used to make people work for peanust and now the entrepreneurs have figured out that they can earn even more for giving a very limited and single-product-range-focussed training? Though, to be fair, with robotics becoming part of the products in range the scope is increasing.

  22. really nope

    They better like over complex , poorly built and oddly coloured plastic otherwise they never going to pass the course .

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