A world-first higher education institute created by a group of former Manchester United stars has opened its doors to students.
University Academy 92 (UA92) aims to increase the number of young people who will enter the workforce with the digital skills that modern employers are looking for.
Former footballers Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt – part of the famous “Class of 92” that helped Manchester United dominate football in the 1990s – have teamed up with Microsoft and Lancaster University to launch UA92.
Gary Neville said UA92 will prepare students to “to support their teammates, perform when it counts and have the right work ethic; essentially, be a football team. Everything we had in our core values was mirrored in Microsoft’s core values, it feels like a perfect match.”
The higher education provider will operate on Office 365, with Microsoft Teams being used to facilitate digital learning and to improve communication between staff and students. UA92’s Principal and Chief Executive, Professor Craig Gaskell, said: “We’re using Teams as our digital learning environment, which means that while students are learning, they’ll be developing digital literacy at the same time. Staff also use Teams to ensure they can work together wherever they are in the world.”
UA92 has been built on the site of the former Kellogg’s cereal factory in Stretford, barely a mile from Manchester United’s football stadium – Old Trafford. The campus features classrooms and areas for socialising or studying, including a digital lounge attached to the lobby. More unique facilities include a human performance lab that includes breath and blood analysis equipment, and the equipment for biomechanical analysis.
The first 100 students were enrolled onto business, sport and media courses in September, with more joining in November and January. Computer science, law and public health courses are expected to be added next year. UA92’s co-founders aim to grow to around 6,000 students in 10 years.
During the official opening of UA92 recently, Derrick McCourt, General Manager of the Customer Success Unit at Microsoft UK, said the institute “is a unique experience to create an academic institution from scratch, the opportunity to innovate and deliver an academic model that fully utilises technology has been an amazing experience”.
UA92 has teamed up with multiple partners, including Microsoft and KPMG, to develop the curriculum, offer opportunities to students and provide an experience that fully embraces technology.
Microsoft is providing technology to support students in their learning, including Office 365. Students and staff will receive training on how to best use the technology, with McCourt adding: “We’re working with the team to have technology and digital as a rule of principal on every programme, whether we’re talking about a technology module or not.”
Gaskell said he was looking forward to “making partnerships with employers central to the proposition, with partners involved in curriculum co-design, contributing to delivery and providing placements for students”.
UA92 has integrated the development of digital skills throughout all its degree programmes, with Gaskell adding that subjects include modules focused on technology, while others embed it throughout.
Four hours of educational content will be delivered online in the middle of the week to “get students used to working in a flexible, digital world”, Gaskell said.
Bobby, who is starting a journalism course at UA92, said she was looking forward to “gaining functional skills to apply to the workplace” such as learning to use Microsoft Teams.
It’s not only digital skills that UA92 is leading on, and the higher education provider has a broader aim to prepare their students for life. Each student will have a personal development coach to help them progress along a “Target Talent Curriculum”, which sees students build emotional and cognitive intelligence.
McCourt said he is “excited about students coming out of these courses with real life skills and prepared to work in a modern, 21st century company”.
The founders of UA92 want to increase digital skills across the North West, while also supporting the regeneration of the Old Trafford area. Gary Neville said: “The achievement of UA92 means both that students are successful in their lives and work after graduation, and that we’ve transformed the whole of Greater Manchester, using UA92 as a catalyst.”
Sara Todd, the Chief Executive of Trafford Council, added: “The Old Trafford area has been a long–standing regeneration priority. We firmly believe that UA92 will be a catalyst for this regeneration and we have developed a master plan with the facility at its heart.”
Microsoft will oversee an office within UA92. McCourt said: “Manchester has become an amazing, innovative hub with a fantastic start-up community and some amazing Microsoft partners. Having this flagship Microsoft space gives us a space to bring in customers and partners and give them a space to collaborate. We are investing in Manchester and the North.
“The other thing that’s exciting is that this is a live, working higher education facility with a real sense of activity grounded in academia. It’s going to be a unique experience for any people coming through”.