Unpacking the role of universities as civic anchor institutions

Professor Roger Lewis, YU Associate

The phrase ‘anchor institution’ is currently in vogue but what does it mean in reality? What defines an ‘anchor’? What kinds of organisation are in a good place to take on the role? How might their different contributions complement each other as part of a wider system?  More specifically for YU, what role should universities play? These questions were posed at a roundtable convened last week to discuss a new report published by Newcastle University researchers on universities and place-based leadership.

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Creative Industries in Yorkshire and the Humber

Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director

According to an independent review of the creative industries, the creative industries are vital to the UK’s long-term productivity and global success. This is even more significant in a post-Brexit era, where universities will have an important role. A 2018 study by Nesta found that research collaborations between universities and creative industries supported by UK Research Councils and Innovate UK had more than doubled between 2006 and 2017. But progress was needed to ensure that the growth potential of the UK’s creative industries benefitted more people and more regions, and supported social mobility, greater equality and progression.

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‘Levelling up’ the UK regions

Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director

A very Happy New Year to YU members, partners and friends, and best wishes for a successful 2020.

I was fortunate enough to be able to take time out over the festive period to pause, recharge the batteries and spend some quality time with the family. During the past two weeks I did, however, keep one eye on the latest stories in relation to the new government’s plans for local and regional development following the Conservative Party’s victory in last month’s General Election. In particular, a couple of news items caught my attention, both of which relate directly to YU’s strategic objective of ensuring that the higher education sector collectively in Yorkshire plays a stronger role in attracting more investment and greater prosperity to the region.

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Breaking the student-graduate stereotype

Professor Roger Lewis, YU Associate

In spite of the profound changes in the university student body over recent decades, something of a ‘stereotype’ persists: the 18-year-old choosing a course and university by consulting prospectuses, friends and family, then leaving home to study and live in a hall of residence. After getting a degree the graduate moves again to some other part of the country, to begin a ‘career’.

The model, influential in driving the sector’s growth, has never told the complete story of higher education. Although part-time study has reduced significantly over the current decade, many part-time students work during the day and then participate in evening study; thousands of students who study by distance or open learning from home, work or a mobile base. But these students have often seemed marginal to decisions about funding, curriculum and learning provision.

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Lobsters and libraries: why engagement with place matters

This guest blog is based upon a speech Matthew Guest from GuildHE recently gave at a recent event on impactful knowledge exchange between higher education and the cultural sector run by The Culture Capital Exchange

Higher education providers of all shapes and sizes can play the pivotal role in brokering relationships and supporting activities between government, industry, charity and place. 

Serving communities is important. Deep listening, understanding and commitment is crucial if we are to address the severe inequalities found within almost every village, town and city in the UK. 

Where does higher education feature in this?

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Getting regional value from knowledge exchange

Professor Roger Lewis, YU Associate

The higher education sector welcomed the announcement last month from Research England Minister announces new direction for knowledge exchange fundingthat the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) will rise to £250 million by 2020-21 (an uplift of over 50% since 2016). Funding for the Yorkshire region moved from £20.1 million in 2018-19 to £20.4 million in 2019-20 and we can thus expect a further increase for 2020-21.

HEIF’s purpose is to develop university-business interaction. What is covered by ‘HEIF’ has always been a source of debate. The ‘I’ in the acronym stands for ‘Innovation’, used here in its business sense, with a strong implied link to technology and the application of ‘research’ to improve productivity. The new emphasis though is on ‘knowledge exchange’ (KE) – like ‘innovation’ another portmanteau term.

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The value of expertise

Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director

Last week, I was in Montréal speaking at an international conference on the subject of regional innovation. The event coincided with half a million people – many of them aged under 16, including the activist, Greta Thunberg – taking to the streets of the city to call for action to address the climate emergency.

Whilst in Canada, I heard of some ground-breaking studies and policies on local and regional research and innovation processes. Coupled with how science and expertise is shaping public opinion on a theme as substantive as climate change, my visit to Québec re-emphasised to me the importance we should attach to universities building and sustaining effective relationships with local communities and the wider public, as well as business and governments.

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Health in all Local Industrial Strategies?

Guest contribution from Michael Wood, NHS Confederation

The government published its Industrial Strategy in November 2017, setting out a long-term plan to create an economy that boosts productivity and earning power throughout the UK. Critically, every local economic area in England, along with the devolved administrations, is now developing its own local industrial strategy. This briefing reflects on the emerging importance of health to many of the early draft local industrial strategies, explores the opportunities for the NHS that exist at both system and organisational level and outlines how to engage with and influence the development of these strategies in the coming year.

Key points

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The Civic University: How should universities assess their economic impacts in a “civic age”?

Guest blog by Tim Fanning and David Marlow

If the Civic University Commission (CUC) Final Report is to genuinely change the type of impacts universities have on the places where they are located,  universities will need to be prepared to deliver impact studies and analyses in new, more explicitly civic and bespoke ways..

The role of the university economic and social impact study

Economic and social impact assessments have become an important part of the evidence base for universities. This reflects the increasing economic importance of universities to their local areas in many locations over time, as well as growing expectations on the sector to harness and demonstrate its wider socio-economic value.

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What central banks and universities have in common

James Ransom, YU Associate

Last month Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, gave a speech at the University of Sheffield asking if all economics, like politics, is ultimately local. The speech attracted attention for its discussion of whether we can capture and model detailed data on the economy at a far more local level. But there are two other points in the speech worth exploring further.

The first is recognition that higher education, alongside financial services and the creative industries, are sectors that ‘exhibit the highest economic complexity and thus potentially generate the highest value-added’. Economic complexity means the amount of embedded knowledge.

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