University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor launches Education 4.0 at Global Innovator Conference in Shenzhen, China

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett launches Education 4.0

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield Professor Sir Keith Burnett unveiled what he believes will be a revolutionary concept in higher education, research and teaching with industry at a Conference of Global Innovators in China’s high-tech city, Shenzhen.

Speaking to an audience of tech innovators and industry leaders from around the world, including leading individuals from Google DeepMind, Sir Keith described an approach to education matching the transformation of next generation technologies in Industry 4.0 which integrates the latest technologies with industry needs and global partnerships: Education 4.0.

Describing Education 4.0, Sir Keith said:

“This is a ground-breaking approach to education which began in Sheffield through our in-depth work on the very latest applications of technology and collaboration in advanced manufacturing with partners such as Boeing.

“From them, we learned that we need to completely rethink our boundaries, so it is no longer possible to see where the lab and lecture theatre end and the factory begins. Our Factory 2050, for example, looks more like an Apple Store than most people’s idea of an industrial research lab, and in it you see industrialists, research scientists and engineers, PhDs in AI and apprentices working side by side.

“We are taking virtual reality and bringing it all the way back to the reality of design and production.”

This is a ground-breaking approach to education which began in Sheffield through our in-depth work on the very latest applications of technology and collaboration in advanced manufacturing with partners such as Boeing.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett

Education 4.0 is the intellectual property of the University of Sheffield but the University is already working with global partners to develop its potential, incorporating concepts including Big data, 5G and augmented reality to create new possibilities for education which links with industry in research-business environments across the world.

Sir Keith said:

“We know that Education 4.0 offers us the chance to do enormous local good, creating new opportunities for young people in our communities in the UK while simultaneously working with our partners in China, in South Korea or in Portland, Oregon.

“To develop this concept – and it is of course still developing fast – we are working with the world’s best. People like Martin Bean at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology who developed Future Learn and who works in an environment which never separated technical and academic education. We are using technologies to cross borders, to challenge old divides and to reboot the economy as we do it.

“It is a very exciting concept. I’m absolutely delighted that the Ministry for Industry in China is as excited about this work as are our partners Boeing and McLaren and all those who have supported the almost 1,000 apprentices we have already trained, providing industry sponsorship so the students themselves don’t have to pay fees. It really is the future.” 

This event followed other meetings with senior figures in China across higher education institutions, industry and government in the capital Beijing to build on partnership opportunities between the UK and China.

Sir Keith met with President Jianhua Lin of China's top-rated Peking University to discuss collaboration on innovation, in particular bringing together the expertise of both universities in new materials which will be crucial for the hybrid and fully-electric cars essential to reducing pollution in Chinese cities and helping achieve global climate change targets.



Sir Keith also met with members of the Chinese government ministry responsible for research and industrial collaboration and held discussions with longstanding university partners from Beijing and Nanjing.

Sir Keith said:

“I am really delighted to see the way our university's partnerships are growing in China with the country's most highly-regarded universities and with industry.

“Like the UK, China is committed to innovation and moving on from being a low-wage economy. There are tremendous opportunities for us to innovate together and develop new products in areas such as next generation vehicles which will also open up exciting research and business opportunities in the UK, including in our own region."

The University of Sheffield is already working in China on a wide range of projects, including with the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology which is responsible for the Chinese space programme. The University's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre is focusing on light-weight, high-performance materials - the same area of advanced manufacturing and materials which will be crucial to next-generation electric vehicles and which underpin the University's research relationship with McLaren supercars.

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