The UK higher education sector is one of our country’s greatest assets. It is as diverse as it is prestigious and, in each region of the UK, universities and HEIs of all sizes and specialisms are working hard to provide their local economies with the skills and innovations to promote growth and productivity.
The recent Universities UK report looking at Our Universities: Generating Growth and Opportunity rightly highlights the positive impact that HEIs are making in the UK’s nations and regions. As the two largest and long-standing regional representative bodies for higher education in England, London Higher and Yorkshire Universities have come together to further demonstrate the power of regional university ecosystems and, ultimately, help to support, through our own regional-specific activities and case studies, the case for universities to influence and inform policymaking within and across the UK.
In this analysis we present a forecast of the impact of YU member institutions over the next five years.
The research uses historic data to predict the future impact of the twelve members of Yorkshire Universities: the universities of Bradford, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, Leeds Beckett, Leeds Trinity, Leeds Arts, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam, York, and York St John, as well as the Leeds Conservatoire.
The exact methods differ depending on the data source and are detailed in the methodological note. However, we make several assumptions: that the economic and policy environment remains stable, that universities continue to be able to engage in similar activities and are supported to do so, and that demographic trends and the number and make up of businesses remains the same.
Given the widespread disruption of COVID-19, and other events with wide-reaching effects such as the UK withdrawal from the EU, the rising cost of living, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, conditions have changed markedly and will affect the forecasts. Understanding the implications of policy changes is also complex. For example, the end of support from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) programme in 2023 will mean UK nations and English regions are unable to access this funding, which has underpinned many job creation and regeneration projects. However, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) offers £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025 (although concerns have been raised about the fund itself, and the potential for a gap in funding). In addition, specific policies and institutional practices may affect the accuracy of forecasts – where known these are detailed in the methodological note.
A new report ‘Supporting Graduate Employment and Employability in Yorkshire’ published today (17 May) by Yorkshire Universities (YU) reveals how universities, students, employers and regional institutions can together help more graduates in Yorkshire enter the world of work or start up in business. In 2020/21, 212,000 students, from over 120 countries, were studying at Yorkshire’s universities, of which 68,000 graduated last year.
Written by a multi-stakeholder Task and Finish Group, convened by YU, the report features a series of recommendations on how to improve graduate employment and employability in the region. Amongst the proposals, include steps to: create more in-study and work experience opportunities; ensure there is more tailored careers and enterprise support; enhance the use of brokerage models to better connect graduates to job opportunities; provide clearer entry points within universities for employers; and run a coordinated campaign to promote the value of graduates to Yorkshire.
Welcoming the report, Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford, and YU Chair, said:
The higher education sector is a major contributor to Yorkshire’s economy, culture and society. If we are to increase social mobility and ‘level up’, then our students and graduates will be central to the success of these missions. This report rightly encourages universities to work more collaboratively and with a diverse range of students and employers, to enable more people from a wide range of diverse backgrounds who graduate in the region to realise their full potential.”
Chair of the Task and Finish Group, Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Vice-Chancellor of York St John University, said:
Universities and partners in Yorkshire currently undertake significant work, and invest heavily, to support students through their studies and as they move into and beyond graduation. Our report recommends some further practical actions that universities and local partners can take to strengthen the existing support that is available to students in Yorkshire, which should help to expand and improve access to more well-paid jobs and careers for graduates.”
This discussion paper provides an overview of some of the key issues shaping the contribution of universities and higher education institutions (HEIs) to the promotion of place, and to attracting inward investment and increased trade into Yorkshire and the Humber, and in particular West Yorkshire.
It should be read against the background of the government’s commitment to increase total research and innovation (R&I) investment to 2.4 percent of national GDP, in particular as foreign-owned businesses in the UK spend more on this activity than domestically-owned businesses.
In addition, it also provides a contribution to discussions that have taken place at various times in the region as to how universities and HEIs help to attract and embed business investment and trade within and across city/sub-regions, regions and the Northern Powerhouse. The report also seeks to inform the emergent 2021-2025 Leeds City Region Trade Strategy.
This work is intended to stimulate debate and to provide a basis for potential actions going forwards. Overall, the region’s universities are well-positioned to strengthen their strategic relationships with Combined Authorities, metro mayors, local government, LEPs, business and others, and to collectively showcase nationally and internationally the unique strengths of higher education (HE) in the region as an asset to attract investment and jobs. In particular, some practical and immediate actions could include providing a feed of relevant university-focused news reports for local inward investment web portals, promoting the local higher-level skills base, and utilising international students and alumni more strategically.