Midlands Enterprise Universities (MEU) has welcomed the findings of a new report into how universities can best serve their local communities.
The report by the Civic University Commission, set up by the UPP Foundation, sets out how universities have the capability, opportunity and responsibility to support the places where they are based to solve some of their most pressing and major problems.
These issues range from helping local business adapt to technological change, to boosting the health of local people, improving education for school pupils and adult learners, and training and developing new civic leaders in every field from politics to the arts.
Chaired by the former Head of the Civil Service Lord Kerslake, the report aims to help universities build on the excellent work that many of them are already carrying out in these areas, working alongside councils, employers, cultural institutions, schools and further education colleges.
Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Derby and Chair of MEU, said: “Valuable civic activity is already being developed by many universities across our region, making contributions which benefit our local communities through our research, our support for business, arts and heritage projects and our involvement in local educational and social initiatives.
“However, we also recognise that continually acquiring a more in-depth understanding of the needs of our communities, and then responding strategically to those needs, is essential if we are to make a truly positive, long-lasting impact. Our activity can also be a catalyst to drive growth and generate jobs and prosperity across the region.
“Universities have to continue to be agile and dynamic, responding quickly to new developments, and initiating or facilitating change and improvements which benefit our local communities, businesses and services. The Commission’s report and strategic guidance will help ensure universities are best placed to do this.”
The report, based on evidence-gathering sessions as well as national opinion polls and focus groups in cities and towns across England, warns of the danger of cutting resources available to universities.
It also states that the Government needs to fundamentally review policies to support further civic engagement by universities and that until the recent creation of an industrial strategy, Government has for many decades been too indifferent about places within the UK – contributing to some regions falling behind.
As a leader in innovation, enterprise and skills, Midlands Enterprise Universities is uniquely placed to support the Midlands Engine for Growth, and the Government’s wider Industrial Strategy, creating jobs and transforming lives.
Attracting European Funding
In 2016/17 (latest stats available) MEU partners won over £29m from European funding and Government funds to run regeneration programmes. This has allowed them to invest intellectual assets in economic, physical and socially beneficial projects such as the STEAMhouse at Birmingham City University.
Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) it encourages businesses to incubate new ideas, and prototype new products and services. As well as collaborating with fellow innovators, STEAMhouse members receive guidance from industry experts skilled in everything from manufacturing to marketing.
Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Lincoln Andrew Stevenson said: “The MEU plays an integral role in providing enterprise support to small and medium companies in their Local Enterprise Partnership areas and, at times, beyond.
“This support takes many forms but caters for advice needs in the areas of start-up, innovation, productivity improvement and business growth. Some of this advice is sectoral in nature and caters for specific needs, such as digital innovation.
“The work is often part-funded using European Structural Investment Funds. Together, our universities play an integral part in the delivery of their LEP Growth Hub offer to companies. Going forward, as we leave Europe, we intend to continue to deliver enterprise support of this kind, drawing on future prosperity funding as made available by Government.”
MEU at a Glance
Together, Midlands Enterprise Universities partners
- educate over 142,600 students
- have a turnover of £1.8 million with an estimated economic impact of £3 billion
- employ more than 18,000 people, creating another 33,000 jobs in the Midlands.
- produce entrepreneurial and job-ready graduates with 96% employed six months after graduation.
- support the creation of over 1000 new graduate start-ups since 2015
- have invested over £400m in new facilities for students and business
- put on free events for the community including exhibitions, museums, dance & culture and public lectures attracting over seven million attendances/attendees