About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Educated risk-takers

Schools and universities don't always help students to develop the skills and competencies they need to be attractive to employers. Quality opportunities to learn in professional environments are hard to come by. And many of the generic skills that employers find lacking in recent graduates - problem-solving, leadership, project management, an ability to work collaboratively - are not skills that current educational approaches tend to prioritise. Meanwhile the rising cost of higher education means that students want to know that the education they pay will be worth it.

We need to find better ways to support learning so that young people, with a very uncertain future ahead of them, are set up to adapt and thrive. We also need to take seriously the importance of identifying and developing skills for innovation. This generation will have to be educated risk takers and they will have to be problem solvers.

A new pedagogy

What could an educational model for the future look like? It could look a bit like Hyper Island.

Hyper Island, a digital media school started in Sweden, has just set up a pilot programme in Manchester sponsored by Nesta. The first cohort of students arrived two weeks ago. They have signed up to a school without teachers, without grades and without exams. Students will lead their own learning, and will be supported to develop skills to evaluate and reflect on their own performance and on the performances of their peers. Failure is explicitly encouraged as a critical step in learning how to do something or developing a solution to a problem.

This may sound like chaos, but the approach is disciplined and serious. Hyper Island is underpinned by a pedagogy which features problem-based learning, experience-based learning and industry briefs. Students work on projects set by colleagues from businesses within the digital media sector, so all learning happens in simulated or real professional contexts.

Co-creating education with industry

The Hyper Island curriculum is created in close collaboration between Hyper Island's expert curriculum designers and a range of industry partners (who are asked to offer a picture of current industry priorities, trends and skills needs, and who often go on to design modules or projects for students). In the Manchester pilot, these include MTV, McCann, Channel 4, Saatchi and Saatchi, Sony Games, Code Computerlove, and Weiden and Kennedy. 

The deep involvement of industry players in design and delivery means the Hyper Island curriculum is fresh and relevant, which is particularly important for dynamic and innovative sectors, such as the high-tech creative industry. If ambitions are realised, students at Hyper Island will have a real head start. They will be ambitious, entrepreneurial, adaptable and in demand. They will also have developed a strong network of peers, potential employers and collaborative partners.  

Transferable lessons

By working with Hyper Island, Nesta hopes to learn more about how to support the development of thriving high-tech creative industries in Britain. The work builds on our recent review of skills for the Video Games and Visual Effects industries and is part of an emerging strand of work around building skills and competencies for innovation. We also have our eyes on other models, such as Dare to be Digital, that demonstrate how educators can work with industry to create powerful learning experiences for students. We are keen to identify and understand the new pedagogical approaches that support industry-led education - get in touch if you have examples to share. 

In the meantime, we wish Hyper Island's students the very best of luck. We expect the experience will challenge, frustrate and push them to create solutions together. It has been designed to.

Photo: Hyper Island.


Perrie Ballantyne

Perrie Ballantyne

Perrie Ballantyne

Learning Manager

Perrie led on the development of curriculum for innovation and learning design and worked with various strategic partners to develop offerings.

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