William Alexander at The Dyson Institute

OF William Alexander (fec03-17) is amongst the first cohort of pupils to study at The Dyson Institute, so we asked him what it was it was like. OF Joel Garner reports

William tell us about your degree at The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology? How long will you be there for and what type of degree will you end up with?

Hello! My course is four years long, I’ve done one year so far after leaving Felsted in 2017, so I’ve still got three more to go. By the end of my course I will have a lot of work experience and a bachelors degree in general engineering. Currently, the academic side of the course is delivered by The University of Warwick but The Dyson Institute is working towards offering its own degree soon. 

How is the education structured and is it free?

Yes, our degree is completely paid for by Dyson, and we also get a day of lectures and a day of self-study every week between October and July. To support our development we get help from engineers across Dyson and academics from the University of Warwick on a one-to-one basis to make sure we are confident with what we are learning. When we are in the workplace we are in teams with Dyson engineers working on live projects helping to solve real world problems. I think that you learn the same amount, if not more in the workplace with the engineers. 

What happens at the end? Are you guaranteed a job with Dyson?

At the end of the course I am guaranteed employment if I get a 2:1 in my degree. This will be challenging but with the support of the academic staff and the engineers I believe it is achievable. 

Is the course more practical? Do you still have lectures and what are these in?

The course most certainly has a practical aspect, although most of our hands-on experience comes in the workplace when we are working on real projects. We also have labs, where we work on practical examples to further our learning in the classroom, just like any other traditional university. Our lectures in the first year were on mathematics, materials, electronics, mechanics, programming and thermal energy systems. In subsequent years we will dive deeper into these topics and will have the option to either specialise or maintain a wider overview.

Tell us about your typical day? How does it go?

On one day, currently a Monday, we have a self-study day when we can focus on preparing for the next day of lectures and work on assignments or coursework. Tuesday is our lecture day, starting at 9am. We have six hours of lectures and an hour’s lunch break. This day is pretty busy and a lot of content is covered. However, lecturers do stop and answer questions, which is a positive of having a smaller lecture group. Wednesday to Friday are spent in the office working with Dyson engineers, making progress on our individual projects and working on certain products. I attend a fair amount of meetings but also spend time in the lab working on new concepts and running tests. 


Where’s The Dyson Institute based? How many students were there on the initial intake?

The Dyson Institute is based in Malmesbury, Wiltshire at Dyson’s Malmesbury Technology Campus. We are less than an hour from Bath and Bristol by car so other students aren’t hard to find. On the first intake there were 33 students. This year the Dyson Institute had an intake of 43 students, so it’s growing every year. 

What’s it like? Are you enjoying it?

I’m really enjoying it so far. The lectures are challenging and it’s great to be making an impact on real products. I’ve met some amazing people who have supported me through the course and I’m sure will be friends for life. I can’t wait to specialise in my third year and gain a deeper knowledge of some of the more interesting concepts.

Oh, that’s interesting. What is it that is sparking your interest so far?

Sadly, given how confidential everything is when you’re working at one of the world’s best engineering and technology companies, I can’t tell you about what I’m working on at the moment. However, in my course I’ve learnt how to use Swift which is what iOS apps are written in and I’ve since then built apps in my own time which I now have on the Apple appstore.

What attracted you to the The Dyson Institute rather than a traditional university degree?

I have always been a practical person thanks to my love of design and technology at school and I liked the idea of real-world work and getting paid whilst completing my degree. Being able to put what we learn in lectures into practice days after learning it is something no other degree can offer.

Has Felsted equipped you well for your time at The Dyson Institute? Do you feel well prepared academically, socially and culturally?

Felsted played a large part in preparing me for my time here, particularly the maths, physics and design and technology departments. These teachers sparked my interest and allowed me to get to where I am now. As a boarder, I was also prepared socially and culturally to work with others in lectures and in the workplace.

Design & Technology at Felsted