ARU wins £5.7million to build AI hubs across region

ARU's Chelmsford campus - the front of the Lord Ashcroft building

New funding will create three Centres of Excellence for Extended Reality and AI

Centres of Excellence for extended reality and artificial intelligence will be built at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) campuses across the region thanks to £5.7million in funding from the Office for Students (OfS), enabling ARU to use cutting-edge technology to enhance teaching.

The grant will enable Anglia Ruskin University to develop Extended Reality (XR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Centres of Excellence at campuses in Chelmsford and Cambridge, as well as at the new university, ARU Peterborough.

The installation of the cross-site XR will allow students to access state-of-the-art learning technologies wherever they study. Rather than simply watching, students are active participants who can directly influence outcomes in a safe environment where learning can be repeated and revisited as many times as needed to consolidate knowledge and build skills.

It will allow ARU to develop its current XR provision, which was used during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to allow Nursing students deemed at heightened risk from the virus to undergo digital placements and continue their learning.

Hilda’s Home, the UK’s first ever credit-bearing simulated placement, featured a 360-degree virtual reality immersive scenario, filmed in a service user’s home.

Students visited 85-year-old Hilda in her home via virtual reality every day, developing their skills in a safe environment. This initiative allowed final-year nurses to continue their training and join the workforce on schedule, and was recently shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award.

Professor Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“The use of immersive technology combined with our regional approach will deliver transformative education and experience for our students, preparing them for high-skilled work and helping employers to meet current and future needs.

“Thanks to our innovative approach, we have already seen the potential for this technology to assist learning, and it is exciting to be able to open up these opportunities for students across the university.”

The OfS funding, which will be spread over the financial years from 2022/23 until 2024/25, will allow ARU to repurpose existing space at its buildings in Cambridge and Chelmsford, with a Centre of Excellence being established on the campus of ARU Peterborough.

It is anticipated that the building works will begin in the new year and the first of the centres being open for the 2023/24 academic year.

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