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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

UEL is teaming up with AWS to prepare students for careers

The University of East London (UEL) has teamed up with Amazon Web Services (AWS) in a bid to better prepare its students for careers, as it aims to become the UK’s leading careers-focused university.

“As part of a new corporate strategy vision which we launched in January, we’re completely rebuilding the university in terms of how we relate to the outside world and what we offer to our student body, and that’s about us becoming 100 per cent careers and employer driven,” the university’s pro vice-chancellor Dr. Paul Marshall told NS Tech.

“There are many universities that sit back and teach students and send them out to work and then employers complain that students arrive without the skills they need – that’s not what we’re like, we want to give our graduates the greatest opportunities for engaging with businesses upon graduation by maximising their opportunities while they’re studying,” he adds.

The collaboration includes the creation of a UEL Career Zone, which will assist students with graduate careers, including advice and guidance on cloud computing from AWS staff, as well as facilities equipped with Amazon technology including Alexa.

“Within our computer science department, we’re teaching cloud computing so we’re in that space. When it came to looking for partners there were a narrow group who we reached out to, and AWS were selected because they dived into the opportunity to get under the skin of the organisation, understanding who we were and what we’re trying to achieve,” he says.

As part of the Career Zone, students will get access to AWS Educate and AWS Academy, meaning they can learn the ins and outs of cloud computing and its impact on fields such as artificial intelligence, voice, facial recognition, gaming and medical advancements. In addition, there will be an ‘Innovation Loft’, where students will be able to get hands-on with AWS’s cloud technology, and attend seminars featuring AWS partners and customers.

AWS will also inform UEL’s curriculum development at postgraduate and undergraduate level, including the launch of the Cloud Associate Degree, which is aimed at helping students prepare for entry-level jobs in cloud computing. Meanwhile, UEL’s School of Business and Law will incorporate a new industry research institute supported by AWS.

Marshall explains that the aim of the collaboration is to recognise that the careers of today aren’t the same as tomorrow.

“This is one of the reasons why we selected AWS as we were looking towards businesses of the future. Another reason is that it has a good track record in the US of working directly with universities and having input on their curriculums,” he says.

Marshall adds AWS will actually have a presence on campus from where it operates.

“The business can interact with students directly on teaching, projects, seminars and that then goes into the Innovation Loft concept where you’ve got a living lab where AWS is able to trial new technology. Our students can give their ideas as part of the lab and our faculty members can work on research there,” he says.

With the likes of AWS and its customers and partners, as well as other companies joining the campus in the years to come, UEL hopes that students will get a better understanding of a number of different businesses and job types, opening up a number of opportunities that may have not been considered before.

“Our student body faces challenges in the way they’ve been brought up – they don’t have the same advantages as students from other universities. They look at those working nearby at Canary Wharf at multi-billion pound banking corporations and can’t relate to them as they don’t look the same or have life experiences similar to them,” he says.

“We need to raise expectations so that our students can better understand the life skills but also get the employers to recognise the skills our students have – particularly the fact that they may be more resilient than other students,” he adds.

As part of the collaboration, UEL has become a cloud customer, using a range of its technologies as part of its infrastructure in an attempt to cut costs and use resources elsewhere to improve the learning experience. In addition, AWS will support UEL’s Professional Fitness and Mental Wealth programme.