Four years after The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology was established, on the company’s Malmesbury Campus in Wiltshire, the first ever graduation took place. Thirty three students graduated after four years of studying and working at Dyson and a celebration took place with James Dyson giving a speech to the graduates and their families.
The students all achieved a BEng Degree Apprenticeship in Engineering, awarded by the University of Warwick, and have all chosen to accept full time roles at Dyson.
The Dyson Institute’s Undergraduate Engineers pay zero tuition fees and earn a full salary. As well as their degree studies, they work on real-life projects alongside world experts in Dyson’s global engineering, research and technology teams.
Over their four years at Dyson the Undergraduate Engineers have collectively worked in 42 different teams, being supported by 88 Line Managers gaining practical engineering experience while working on 17 different released Dyson machines.
Sir James Dyson said: ““Our first cohort of undergraduates were pioneering and brave to put their trust in Dyson for their degree, but by any standards their finals results are extraordinary. I am so thrilled that they are all choosing to stay at Dyson following their studies, to be part of the team developing the technologies and products that will be our future”
He added, “At my ripe old age, I should be able to pass on some advice. But I’m stumped. The world is moving so fast, tomorrow is so different from today. Experience is not necessarily the help it used to be, problems need to be approached differently and this gives YOU an unprecedented advantage. Be bold, be radical. The world needs radicals.”
Professor Robin Clark, Dean, WMG, University of Warwick said: “WMG’s unerring vision has always been to support innovation through academic-industrial partnership. The Dyson Institute is the perfect example of the magic that can happen when you design educational experiences together around how students wish to learn. Working in partnership, WMG and Dyson created a new model for engineering education, bringing together the best of industrial innovation, high quality academic education, and talented students on an outstanding campus.”
The students were joined by their families and James Dyson along with Jake Dyson and members of the Dyson Institute Council including Jo Johnson, former Minister for Universities, and Mary Curnock Cook OBE. It was in a meeting with Jo Johnson in 2016 that James Dyson decided to establish the Dyson Institute. In a speech to the students James Dyson paid tribute to the graduating students, calling them all pioneers for embarking on such and different route of higher education and thanked them and their families for putting their trust in the fledging project that is now well on its way to becoming an university.
In October 2020, The Dyson Institute became the first higher education provider to be awarded the right to award its own degrees under the New Degree Awarding Powers route established by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. This means that those students who have enrolled at The Dyson Institute in 2021 will be awarded a Dyson Institute degree.
The 2021 cohort comprises of 39 Undergraduate Engineers, 41 per cent of whom are female compared to the average of 21 per cent of females of UK engineering undergraduate courses. This takes Dyson’s investment into The Dyson Institute to date £40 million.
Graduate Niamh Turney said she wasn’t always sure she wanted to be an engineer, “But I knew I was creative, and I liked problem solving.
“Even though we were the first students, I was sure that it was going to be a good experience. I remember saying to my mum, “It’s Dyson, their products are the best, they’re going to do the same with The Dyson Institute ” I had a lot of trust, and having the University of Warwick involved too, I knew it was going to work..
“I worked in the haircare Fluid Dynamics team due to my passion for all thing haircare and really loved it. I got to work on the Dyson Airwrap™ before it was released to the public. Knowing how great it was felt like I had the best secret Christmas present to give to the world. I was just so excited for my friends and everyone to use it. It’s such a good feeling to see it in shops, and know that I worked on it, that I contributed to it.
Graduate Ben Breakell was always practical and liked technology, but never knew that design or product engineering was a viable career option. “Then one day we bought our very first Dyson vacuum cleaner, and we were so excited to get it that I was showing it to all my friends. And in the box was a leaflet for the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London. This really interested me and so I looked it up online. And while Googling it, I found The Dyson Institute. My sister encouraged me to apply, because she thought it was a great opportunity to get paid while studying for a degree apprenticeship.
“For the first two years we rotated through different Global engineering teams and when it came time to pick a team for the third and fourth year, I hadn’t found one that worked for me. One evening I went to Basketball club after work, and got speaking with one of my friends there, he suggested I join his team in New Concepts, and after a coffee and a meeting with the team I realised it was a great place to work, and was going to be a great fit for me. It made me really see that it’s the people who make Dyson what it is, a culture of ‘if you can help someone, help them.’ And that moment solidified that to me. Now having been in that team for two years, I feel like I’ve not only learnt how to be a good design engineer, they also taught me how to learn, how to be adaptable, how to pick things up in a workplace environment. I’m really excited to find a new team where I can take all of the skills, practices and experience I have into a full-time role at Dyson.”
Graduate James Olrog used to go interactive museums and really enjoyed those learning environments. “When watching cartoons and TV I loved sci-fi technology shows, with lots of technology and fun gadgets. I loved how those shows made it feel like anything was possible. And then I got into coding at 12 or 13, making websites and simple games, so I was surrounded by technology, and wanted to be creative with technology.
“Thinking back to my first days [at Dyson], I joined excited, ready to jump into everything. I loved everyone that I was meeting, seeing the Dyson campus. After the initial excitement and getting used to the day-to-day reality, it was strange and in some ways isolating being in a small group of students and not a big University community. But The Dyson Institute team were supportive and helped reassure me.
“I got the chance to work in all areas of Dyson, and I loved every rotation. But because I had a background in coding I felt really at home there, and I liked how quickly you can implement changes, and the turnaround time to add a feature is much faster than building physical prototype. I really love that engineering gets to impact the end users in a positive way. So, I wanted to go back into the new Software team, but the team said that it wouldn’t necessarily be the best place for me and recommended I go into a delivery team. I think it was an important conversation to have, to be challenged on what is best for me as a young software engineer. I ended up focused on testing, making the product robust, the perhaps ‘uglier’ side of software. Building up a foundation of knowledge and experience that I can later apply to other areas. I’ve loved it and going forward I would like to be able to find a balance between the two sides of software development.”
Graduate David Callow had always been interested in engineering, liked maths and physics and always liked taking apart toys. “A typical ‘engineering-y’ kid. I joined a ‘start up’ new Sixth Form College, a University Technical College (UTC) that had only been open about a year before me. They were good at encouraging young people to explore opportunities other than normal universities.
“I found The Dyson Institute through a friend’s Dad who had seen it in an engineering magazine, which was lucky. I applied and made it through the rounds of applications. I loved that my peers were a group of talented, driven, likeminded people, and we all chose to have each other’s backs, because we’d all pushed to be there. Which was a surprise from the competitive atmosphere I think I was expecting.
“Initially I chose to work on the Automotive project, working on the new concepts for the future of Dyson cars, which was exciting, I loved how fast paced and high energy the whole team was, and that really resonated with me. After the project closed, I looked for something totally new to me. I decided to join the Energy Storage team, which has been a great experience, doing some important work surrounding the future of batteries, meeting amazing and skilled people and learning a lot about technologies I did not know existed.”
In comparison to a normal student finishing university, I almost feel like nothing’s changed. I’ve been working at Dyson for four years so I really understand how the business works and I’ve already got a job that I want to keep and have been working mostly full time for four months already, so after I graduate it will just feel like a continuation of what I’ve been doing in energy storage. It feels like quite a seamless transition. It’s been a huge journey and I’ve learnt a whole lot, being exposed to such a wide range of disciplines, even within my field of electronics engineering. I feel privileged and grateful to have had this opportunity.