MK:U - and the Digital Vision for the MIT of the UK

 MK:U - Dean Jones' Digital Vision for the MIT of the UK

Disclosure: As a contributor to the inception and development of Milton Keynes University (MKU), it is essential to provide accurate clarity regarding my role. While I was involved in strategic projects at Cranfield University, I was not the founder or primary leader of MKU. The leadership role was held by Professor Lynette Ryals OBE.

In the realm of education and urban development, a unique vision took shape in Milton Keynes, where Dean Jones, in his role as Director of Strategic Projects for Cranfield University, played a pivotal role in overseeing aspects of MK:U — a groundbreaking project led by Professor Lynette Ryals OBE, aimed at establishing a new university for the city. This blog unveils Dean's transformative journey, focusing on the strategic planning, partnerships, and digital literacy at the core of MK:U.


Milton Keynes, one of the largest cities in the UK without its dedicated university, is on the cusp of a transformative educational project—MK:U. The initiative aims to address the long-standing need for a standalone university catering to the city's scale and providing specialized courses for its sustained growth. At the helm of this visionary endeavor is Dean Jones, leveraging his role as Director of Strategic Projects for Cranfield University.

Professor Lynette Ryals OBE envisioned it as the "MIT for the UK." This ambitious undertaking aspired to produce digitally savvy graduates, ready to navigate the challenges of the future workforce. In 2017, MK:U secured Cranfield University as the lead higher education partner, marking a significant milestone in the city's journey towards establishing a dedicated undergraduate university.

MK:U is not just a conventional educational institution; it is a city-wide hub envisioned to have a profound impact on Milton Keynes' cultural, economic, and educational landscape. With a focus on technology, engineering, and science-focused courses, MK:U aims to produce highly skilled, employable graduates who are equipped for the digital era.

The strategic location of MK:U in the city center, between the railway station, employment areas, and the retail and leisure core, reinforces its status as a dynamic and accessible facility. The project aligns with the MK Futures 2050 Commission's recognition of the benefits that a resident undergraduate population could bring to Milton Keynes, fostering a highly skilled workforce and diversifying the city's cultural offerings.

Professor Lynette Ryals OBE, along with key players and partners, initiated an International Design Competition in January 2019 to select the team responsible for the masterplan of MK:U.

A distinctive feature of MK:U is its commitment to digital literacy. Professor Lynette Ryals OBE, along with the MK:U team recognized the importance of preparing students for the digital age. MK:U aims to go beyond traditional educational models, offering innovative ways of learning, potential two-year study programs, and increased integration with industry, ensuring graduates are work-ready and carry less debt.

The emphasis on STEM subjects in MK:U's curriculum aligns with the growing demand for highly skilled workers in knowledge-intensive, high-tech businesses. The curriculum differentiates itself by providing opportunities for students to gain valuable experience through business placements, creating graduates with both a degree and practical experience.

Dean Jones' holistic approach to project management involved maintaining a helicopter view of the entire program's workstreams. His strategic involvement, collaboration with key stakeholders, and engagement with internal and external partners was instrumental in steering MK:U toward success.


MK:U, guided in part by Dean Jones' visionary leadership, represents a transformative step for Milton Keynes. This unique university project, with its focus on digital literacy, strategic partnerships, and innovative curriculum, is poised to redefine the educational landscape in the city, creating a hub where education and the digital future converge.

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