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New College Durham and Business Durham Innovation in the Foundation Degree Curriculum

The Project:

To create a new Foundation Degree module in innovation management, ideas generation and enterprise, providing students who are employment-ready with skills that can be used at all business levels.

Business Durham represented employers across the county to feed their needs into the development of the module, which will be integrated into Foundation Degrees at New College Durham and adapted for level 6 Top-Up Degrees validated by the Open University.

The College:

New College Durham was approached by Business Durham to put together the module, with the ultimate aim of introducing it into the curriculum for all students.

Richard Hodgson, New College Durham’s higher education development manager, said:

It’s very much strategic to attract employers who are innovation based companies to County Durham. We were approached to see if we could bring innovation and enterprise into the curriculum in terms of the qualifications we do. These are the knowledge sets and skills employers are demanding now and in the future.

Via Business Durham, the college put together ideas for innovative employers at NETPark. Students visited the park, heard from guest speakers and talked to employers during the project.

The module has already gone live on around 50 per cent of New College Durham’s Foundation Degree programmes and will be introduced to the rest by the end of the academic year. It’s also being integrated at level 6 into full Degree programmes with the Open University and the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (IOEE) is keen to accredit the module for its Level 4 award in creativity and innovation.

Richard said:

The results have been over and above what we expected and we are delivering them now. It was intended to be a further education programme but there is now demand from different educational levels and employers. We have a grand vision that every student attending New College Durham can gain knowledge of innovation for the longer term.

Funding from HLHE allowed the college to run two trials of the module and appoint four staff as innovation champions to work with Business Durham to put the infrastructure in place.

That physical human support to deliver it in the classroom would have been difficult to do without funding. I certainly don’t think we would’ve been delivering it this year. It’s worked very, very effectively and enabled us to link with employers, meet their needs, and upskill our students with the skills employers are looking for.

The Employer:

Business Durham selected New College Durham to work on the project after approaching colleges for their thoughts on developing the North East’s first innovation management qualification.

Business Durham’s innovation and growth director, Catherine Johns, said:

Wherever you work, you need to spot ideas and opportunities and make them real. Whether you work in the production line or have an idea for a great service, it’s the same skill, applicable across every single business.

Catherine linked up with technical businesses at NETPark to find out what they wanted from the module.

When we asked what they wanted, we expected science and technical skills but they wanted good scientists and engineers who understood the business world – it didn’t matter what the subject was, they needed someone with practical knowledge, which is where this programme came from.

Catherine found the college “a delight to work with and very open to change”, and praised its focus on preparing students for life, not just qualifications.

She added:

They’ve been a great partner, and I’ve really enjoyed working with them.