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A number of universities already operate in the city and nearby, including The Open University, Cranfield University, The University of Buckingham and The University of Bedfordshire. Milton Keynes College also provides foundation degree level teaching. These all make valued and high quality contributions to the growth and vibrancy of Milton Keynes but the city continues to lack a standalone university of its own that operates at the scale and provides the specialist courses necessary to meet its long-term needs. Milton Keynes is one of the largest cities in the UK not to have its own dedicated university and this has an adverse impact on local economic growth and the attractiveness of the city as a destination.

The MK Futures 2050 Commission recognised the opportunities that a resident undergraduate population could bring to Milton Keynes, ranging from creating a highly skilled workforce to meet the demands of high-tech businesses in the area, to bringing a new sector of users to the city centre to create a diverse and independent cultural and leisure offer.  The Commission therefore recommended that the Council lead work to try and meet the city’s long-held ambition for a large, undergraduate university in MK. 

In October 2017, the Council opened up the opportunity for higher education institutions to bid to be the lead partner for the "MK:U" project.  Cranfield University, a local post-graduate only university who are world-leaders in engineering and business management, were successful in this process and were selected as the lead Higher Education partner for MK:U.  Cranfield University worked with a range of partners, including Milton Keynes City Council, Aston University and other local businesses and partners, to develop a more detailed plan for taking the project forward.


Cranfield University developed proposals for a city-centre campus, with around 10,000 students, studying a range of technology, engineering and science-focused courses, producing highly skilled, employable graduates.  MK:U would offer new ways of learning, perhaps teaching spread over two years instead of three, or with much more integration with industry so that graduates leave the university ready for the world of work, and with less debt.  The university would be a facility shared by the whole city, creating a vibrant hub within CMK where people of all ages can spend time. 

Design Competition for MK:U

In January 2019, the Council and Cranfield University, in partnership with Malcolm Reading Consultants, launched an International Design Competition to select a team to design the masterplan for MK:U.  Details of the competition are available at 

Following a successful launch of the international design competition in January 2019, the first stage attracted 53 team submissions comprising 257 individual firms from across the globe.  Five teams were shortlisted to go forward to Stage Two;




Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands 


The International Jury Panel met in July 2019 where they worked through all the submissions to come to a final verdict on the design, with Hopkins being determined as the winning submission.

MK:U Degree Apprenticeships

Cranfield University and Milton Keynes City Council worked closely with central government to try and secure funding for the full MK:U project, which would have enabled the realisation of a university campus for thousands of students in Central Milton Keynes.  Sadly, despite the best efforts of all involved, it has not been possible to secure the funding needed.

However, Cranfield University have been successfully delivering Degree Apprenticeship courses as an early part of their plans for MK:U.  You can read more information about this at

Milton Keynes City Council and Cranfield University ended their official partnering agreement in early 2024.



The Open University (OU) is exploring the opportunity to relocate its campus to Central Milton Keynes, alongside the potential to provide in-person courses at a scale of up to 20,000 attending students. The OU is investing significant resources in developing a business case and has been working positively with Milton Keynes Development Partnership (MKDP) to explore how this could be delivered as part of MKDP’s wider plans for the city centre, including Block B4.


The OU has written to the Council asking for support for their vision as their work gathers pace.  At the Cabinet meeting of 7 November 2024, the City Council agreed to give their full support for the OU's Campus 2030 project, recognising the significant benefits that the project would bring to the city and its residents.

It is expected that the Open University will make a decision about their potential move to the city centre later in 2024.

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