Plan to Improve Graduate Employment and Employability in Yorkshire – YU Launches New Report

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.”

You can now download the Executive Summary and the Main Report (opens in new tab).

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Call to engage with the implementation of the Yorkshire & Humber Climate Commission’s Regional Climate Action Plan

The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission is establishing a programme of ‘Delivering Impact’ sessions that will run through to early 2024 with a focus on net zero, climate resilience, nature recovery and fair and inclusive (or just) transitions in the region.

Each of the open sessions (see below) will:

  1. examine evidence on key themes
  2. review global, national and regional best practice
  3. develop links between different areas of action to encourage a joined-up approach;
  4. consider what is being done, what needs to be done, and what more could be done to deliver ambitious climate action in the region;
  5. review stakeholder perspectives on each theme, considering the views of government, business and communities/third sector groups;
  6. consider enablers/blockers and capacities for change;
  7. propose practical actions that can/should be taken and the role that the Commission and other actors can play in promoting these.

The draft outputs from the sessions will form the basis for extensive stakeholder engagements and will be fed into government and business and to the activities of the Commission moving forward.  They will also feed into the ‘State of the Region’ climate action progress review that the Commission is preparing for launch in early 2024.

We are calling on colleagues at YU members insititutions to engage with these Delivering Impact sessions. Read more about it here.

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Yorkshire Universities congratulates Bradford on becoming UK City of Culture 2025

Tuesday 31 May 2022

Responding to the news that Bradford has been awarded the title of UK City of Culture 2025, Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities, said:

“This is superb news for Bradford and Yorkshire as a whole. Bradford is a fantastic choice to be UK City of Culture given the city’s rich cultural heritage and creative dynamism. Huge congratulations go the bid team, including Bradford Council and the University of Bradford, as well as the huge number of businesses and community groups from across the district who have made this happen. It is a perfect accolade and will see Bradford, alongside Leeds 2023 and other programmes in the region, driving cultural activities, investment and growth in Yorkshire over the next few years.”

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Yorkshire and the Humber Student Mental Health Network

Yorkshire Universities will today (26 May) join student welfare officers and health professionals to learn more about some of the established, innovative and successful examples of improving student’s mental health in the region and across the country. There are over 212,000 students studying at universities in Yorkshire.

The event, hosted by the University of Bradford, will also see members of the Yorkshire and the Humber Student Mental Health Network and Association of Directors of Public Health discuss how better data and analysis can inform long-term planning and interventions around student mental health needs.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bradford and Chair of Yorkshire Universities, said:

“We know from research before and during the pandemic that children and young adults are facing a mental health crisis.

Covid has increased the demand for university-funded support services, and there is a much greater focus now on student mental health and wellbeing. The voices of students and staff should be central to our efforts to improve mental health in the higher education sector. We know doing this leads to improved engagement and outcomes.

Closer working between universities and the NHS has also been vital to increasing access to and coordination of mental health care for those students needing support. That is why this event is so important, bringing together universities and partners across the region to share good practice and provide collective support to address an issue that matters to us all.”

Notes

Yorkshire Universities has a shared commitment to strengthen the contribution of universities and higher education institutions to the economic, social and civic well-being of people and places in Yorkshire.

The members of Yorkshire Universities are: Leeds Arts University; Leeds Conservatoire; Leeds Beckett University; Leeds Trinity University; Sheffield Hallam University; University of Bradford; University of Huddersfield; University of Hull; University of Leeds; University of Sheffield; University of York; and York St John University.

The Chair of Yorkshire Universities is Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bradford.

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What on earth is ‘levelling up’?

This blog was written by Ronalds Busulwa, PhD student at the University of Huddersfield. Winner of the PERN blog competition, an achievement he shares with Marrion (Mo) Todd. To follow Ronalds on Twitter go to @BlackstudentsMH

I am glad you asked! Imagine a mountain where some people are at the top while others are at the bottom, trying to get all the people to the same level is ‘levelling up’, in other words trying to bring something to an equal level or position compared to another. Ok not the best analogy but work with me here, it will make sense. It is to do with ensuring that no community is left behind in resource distribution, sounds great, right? You see, where power lies matters, and the root cause of the UK regional divides is ‘over-centralization’ (concentration of power or many administrative functions in one place). One wonders why the same government in power for 12 yrs of ‘un levelling up’ is calling for ‘levelling up’ now. Cynicism aside let’s sink our teeth into this.

Is there any meat on the bones of the ‘levelling up’ policy’?

Here is thing, the most fundamental flaw in the ‘levelling up’ is this, for those at the bottom to level up, those at the top need to lose something, and that seems to go against this Government’s ethos. In the North of England, Government spending has fallen by £696m since 2012 while the South has seen an increase of 7bn. Then the government abandons plans for a high-speed railway linking the North to the South, and that was it, the eastern leg of HS2 meant to connect the Midlands and Leeds was abandoned.With the HS2 which was supposed to address the North-South divide now dead, what the government is telling those in the North is “you are not worth investing in” leavingregional interconnectivity grossly reduced.

How did it get to this? Well, one school of thought is that it’s the electoral shocks that drove the regional inequalities up the Whitehall and Westminster agenda. And the fact of the matter is that it’s almost impossible for democracy to work anymore when governments are only concerned with the people who gave them power by voting for them. Therefore, levelling up is only aimed at constituencies that returned a Tory member of parliament. The intentions of ‘levelling up’ have a lot to be applauded for example, more power should be held locally, and there’s a lot to like in encouraging local government restructuring to create the establishments that are able to take on powers, a lot to applaud but am afraid that is probably the best bit in it. And if the intentions give us hope for a better future, then this in itself is a success.

The Levelling Up white paper recently released seeks to solve regional inequalities, and it’s about distribution of resources or to be blatant money. Given that ‘levelling up’ is about distribution of finances, it’s remarkable that it was hardly mentioned in the Chancellor’s speech & features vaguely only 5 times in the full Spring Statement 2022.

So, if the treasury is not fully behind this ambitious policy how can it turn into reality? To us the people levelling up is much more than a policy, it’s access to education, employment, decent public transport, life expectancy etc and it shouldn’t be just an optional extra which is nice to have.

Last thoughts Although there’s a lot to be applauded in the intentions, levelling up is perhaps unique in its scope and ambition and the real question is what will success look like? The mayor of Manchester succinctly put it ‘levelling up’ is a carefully crafted phrase designed to appeal to the gullible. Much like “Take back control”, well time will tell.

This blog was written by Ronalds Busulwa. He is a second year PhD student at the University of Huddersfield. His research is exploring the role of faith in the Mental Health of black students at University in the UK. Ronalds is currently a Mental Health practitioner and lecturer; and also an Addictions Therapist.

Disclaimer:

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Yorkshire Universities, PERN or the University of Huddersfield.

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Levelling up and the dangers of rebranding equality

This blog was written by Marrion (Mo) Todd, Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Huddersfield. Winner of the PERN blog competition, an achievement she shares with Ronalds Busulwa. To follow Mo on Twitter go to @MoTodd5

Why has equality been given a makeover? Why are headlines incomplete without a nod towards the levelling up agenda? Why does equality need a new buzz phrase to engage people? Are we suffering from political correctness fatigue and does levelling up provide respite from that? These are all questions that burst into my head when levelling-up became the latest political waggon. Being a literature student (whose likeness to an engineer always makes me smile), I can take things apart. So let’s deconstruct this term levelling-up to see what it hides.

Equality is about being equal, about meeting in the middle, about everyone getting a fair whack at life’s pinata to see what goodies drop out. Whilst levelling-up promotes empowerment, it also supports stasis. To me levelling up presupposes there is a system in place of haves and have nots, with the haves on top and the have nots below. The theory is that the haves empower those with less advantage to step up to the same level. What’s wrong with that? Surely, everyone on an equal footing is what we’re after. I have an answer to that – colonialism. Wasn’t colonialism marketed as a levelling up policy, looking to improve native populations by introducing Western methods and Western languages into their cultures? There is a nasty aftertaste of nineteenth century patronage that also comes with levelling up; with those in power smugly patting themselves on the back for their benevolence whilst those running towards them try to elbow each other out of the way in their fight to be the ones favoured.

Levelling up suggests the ones at the top, who have always been able to see over the wall from the start of the game, simply take time out to build boxes for everyone else to stand on. In the meantime, everyone else has to wait. Why not simply remove the wall? The wall stays intact because the wall is a supporting structure, and box making is an enterprise that can generate both labour and money. So the people who need a box to stand on end up being handed the materials and the tools to make the box, whilst the person who already enjoys the privileged view carries on unchanged. Whilst I am all in favour of box makers the world over, sitting back and thinking that providing tools for people to build boxes solves the problem, particularly whilst those already in power get to carry on building walls. That is why, if equality needs a make-over, I prefer levelling out as its upgrade. Levelling out suggests the removal of the walls, so everyone gets an equal opportunity from wherever they are to take part, and also embraces the previously recognized needs from the equality agenda, for a redistribution of wealth and resources. The world is suffering from the excesses of human activity, therefore people need to be encouraged to change, not to stand still enjoying their excess whilst encouraging others to join them.

Whilst the levelling up agenda encourages those with the resources to help those with less, it still encourages classist binary distinctions and does not appear to directly address those patronizing overtones. The lasting impression appears to be one where gratitude is expected for receiving handouts, similar to a recently released teacher being criticized for not gushing over being released when she should never have been imprisoned in the first place.

Having had my moment standing on the box I’ve made, despite my criticism of levelling up as a term, there is much to be welcomed by the amount of airtime devoted to tackling equality. But with that in mind, let us be clear it’s equality we want, not a bigger box.

Mo Todd is a married mother of two, researching Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and its relevance to current changes to masculine identity. Mo graduated with first class honours in History with English Literature in 2012. When not knee deep in academic work, Mo co-directs a publishing business called Montidots Ltd whose output mainly consists of fantasy role-playing games written and illustrated by Simon Todd.

Disclaimer:

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Yorkshire Universities, PERN or the University of Huddersfield.

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Yorkshire Universities responds to the REF 2021 results

Responding to the publication today of the results of the UK-wide assessment of university research, conducted through the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF), Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities (YU), said:

“The REF is the culmination of years of hard work by the higher education sector and those who steered the process from the UK’s funding bodies. The results reveal that there is world-class research across all parts of the country, and that a significant and growing proportion is having a direct, transformational impact upon our economy, society and environment.

“I congratulate the 6,315 FTE staff in Yorkshire whose research was submitted for assessment, and to all colleagues within YU member universities. It is evident that Yorkshire’s universities have major research strengths across a broad range of subject areas, and that we have a firm basis for building stronger research collaborations between institutions in the region. If we are to level up Yorkshire and address the major opportunities and challenges we face as a region and a nation, the research capabilities of Yorkshire’s universities, alongside their contributions to innovation, skills development, enterprise and civic leadership, will be critical both now and into the future.”

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Tender opportunity: Insight into the role of behavioural science for regional and local government

PERN are seeking to commission a report and rapid evidence review examining the role of behavioural science in local and regional government and policy. Whilst we would like to hear your thought on how the report should develop, we are keen that it considers the ideas around nudging firms to productivity and innovation.

Find out more about this tender here.

The deadline for submitting proposals to this tender has been extended to 5pm on Monday, 25 April 2022.

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***CALLING ALL POST GRADS & PhD STUDENTS***

Does your research say something about levelling up? Is there something missing with the agenda? Is there something that needs saying? Has the government got it right, wrong or somewhere in between? Is there something else that policymakers should be doing?

We are launching our inaugural blog competition. If you have something to say on levelling up, we want to hear from you!

Simply submit a 600-word blog post and author bio to: PERN@YorkshireUniversities.ac.uk

Our advisory panel will shortlist entries and we will offer editorial support to the top 10 posts and publish them on the Yorkshire Universities website.

The top 3 will each receive a £100 cash prize and an invitation to present their research to a panel of academics and policymakers as part of our levelling up series.

Deadline for submissions extended to 29 April 2022.

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Response by Yorkshire Universities to the proposed changes to the funding of higher education in England

Thursday 24 February 2022

Responding to the publication of the government’s proposals to reform higher education funding in England, Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities (YU), said:

We now have clarity on how the government intends to take forward the recommendations in the Augar Review. It has been four years since the Review was launched, and, during that time, the world has changed in many ways. What remains a constant, however, is the value of, and the demand for, higher education (HE), and its contribution to increasing social mobility and enabling students from diverse backgrounds to reach their full potential.

HE is a vital tool for helping people, places and businesses in Yorkshire meet the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly changing economy. Our universities and other providers also play a critical role in creating the skilled workforce that key public services, such as health and education, depend upon.

Earlier this month, the government published a Levelling Up White Paper, which gave a commitment to tackling social and spatial inequalities. The White Paper rightly identified human capital as a critical investment for building more productive local and regional economies. The additional capital funding and strategic teaching grants are therefore welcome. However, financial pressures within the sector remain, and, unless we are careful, new minimum eligibility requirements to access HE student finance could limit access and stifle aspiration in some of our most disadvantaged communities. It would be difficult to see how this would square with the ambition to level up.

YU will consider the government’s plans carefully, and we will consult with our members before responding in full.

Note to Editors

Yorkshire Universities has a shared commitment to strengthen the contribution of universities and higher education institutions to the economic, social and civic well-being of people and places in Yorkshire.

The members of Yorkshire Universities are: Leeds Arts University; Leeds Conservatoire; Leeds Beckett University; Leeds Trinity University; Sheffield Hallam University; University of Bradford; University of Huddersfield; University of Hull; University of Leeds; University of Sheffield; University of York; and York St John University.

The Chair of Yorkshire Universities is Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bradford.

Contact

Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director, Yorkshire Universities

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Yorkshire Universities responds to the Levelling Up White Paper

Wednesday 2 February 2022

Responding to the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper today, Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities (YU), said:

“This White Paper has long been in gestation, and it forms a central component of the government’s domestic policy agenda. There is a lot of material to digest in the document, and many will be poring over the details in the days ahead.

There is nothing inevitable or efficient in economic terms about the existence and extent of social and spatial inequalities. The UK will fail to maximise its full potential whilst so many people and places in regions, such as Yorkshire, are disadvantaged and are left behind.

Today’s White Paper presents a plan for how the government proposes to halt and reverse disparities in opportunity, income, health and wealth. It is a huge challenge, and it requires long-term commitment, significant new (and above all increased) public and private investment, cultural change and partnership between all parts of Whitehall, regions and communities. One of the lessons, indeed failures, of previous efforts to ‘level up’, is that there have been too many short-term measures, coupled with regular churn and change of institutions and programmes. In addition, governments in the past have not embraced a sufficient spatial focus within national policy or they have implemented policies that have countered any attempts to address regional disparities.

Crucially, there needs to be a genuine commitment across government to level up. The intention to introduce duties on departments to monitor and evaluate their specific contributions to defined levelling up missions does provide a potential basis for generating and sustaining greater cross-government buy-in.

But this is not the job of central government alone. Levelling up requires devolution to the regions, especially in England. We welcome the decision by the government to take forward detailed negotiations with York and North Yorkshire on a new Mayoral Combined Authority, and to invite Hull and East Yorkshire to begin negotiations on a new devolution deal. All parts of Yorkshire should enjoy greater autonomy, and we would also encourage the government to strengthen the existing devolution arrangements in South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.

Universities and the higher education sector have key roles to play in levelling up, through the social capital they bring via their long-standing civic engagement work, and through their specialist capacity and expertise in research and innovation, education and skills, and knowledge exchange. The proposal for domestic public R&D investment outside the Greater South East to increase by at least 40%, by 2030, is welcome, but we need a clear understanding of the baseline for this funding proposal, and it is essential that regions have direct influence over how such investment is determined and spent. In Yorkshire, we have several innovation-led industrial and societal assets and clusters that could deliver significant wider benefits from increased public R&D investment, and they are prime candidates to host Innovation Accelerators. Similarly, new education and skills proposals, designed to shape long-term employment and skills provision, to meet current and future local labour market skills supply and demand, should be integrated fully within local and regional economic strategies.

In Yorkshire, YU members are working with the public, private and voluntary and community sectors to support the region’s recovery from the impacts of Covid, and to create a more prosperous, healthier, inclusive and greener region. In the run up to the White Paper, YU strengthened its partnership with the region’s local authorities, and we have described in detail how higher education, local government and Mayoral Combined Authorities can work together to deliver shared priorities, including levelling up priorities. We look forward to working with the government and our partners as the implementation stage of the White Paper begins.”

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Levelling Up in Yorkshire and the Humber – A Position Statement by Yorkshire Universities and Yorkshire & Humber Councils

The government is committed to levelling up growth and opportunity, and to ensure that no region is left behind. Yorkshire and the Humber enjoys significant strengths and advantages. But the region also faces fundamental challenges. Targeted, long-term investment would deliver real improvements in productivity, education and skills, employment participation and population health.

This position statement is timed to coincide with the launch of a new partnership between Yorkshire Universities and Yorkshire & Humber Councils. The report has been prepared following a comprehensive review of research, evidence and proposals relating to the government’s plan to level up. It identifies what levelling up means to Yorkshire and the Humber, and what higher education institutions and local government can achieve together through analysis, ideas, convening power and practical delivery on the ground.

We embrace a definition of levelling up that is based on tackling long-standing local and regional inequalities and in particular addressing the challenges faced by ‘left behind’ places. Our aim is that no person or place in the region should be left behind due to structural inequalities. The report illustrates the contributions our members make as anchor institutions, and the benefits of partnership with each other and with government. Our proposals reflect the distinct nature of Yorkshire and the Humber; a shared commitment to collaboration, and to achieving real change.

Our analysis leads us to suggest that levelling up in Yorkshire and the Humber would benefit from higher education, local agencies, government and others working together to deliver a range of actions in the following areas: skills, employment and economic growth; education; climate change and environment; health and well-being; economic, social and digital infrastructure; and housing. These policies are instrumental to the creation of a more prosperous, greener, healthier and inclusive region.

Levelling up also means empowering people and local communities to participate in decision making, and to instill a renewed sense of belonging and pride. Local government and higher education are actively engaged with local communities to enhance citizen involvement in renewing social and civic capital. In addition, the devolved institutions in South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire have agreed long-term deals with government to deliver specific interventions designed to drive growth and development.

We believe that government (and its agencies) could take forward steps to support increased and more effective funding and financing in Yorkshire and the Humber. We would encourage more place-based investment underpinned by greater regional and local design, ownership, integration and strategic fit between various funding mechanisms.

The scale of the opportunity requires new and innovative thinking and action. A systems perspective would allow us to consider the impact of policies, and in cases where dual (or several) polices are implemented simultaneously it would enable us to identify interactions and outcomes. We would encourage the government to work with us to explore how a systems approach would operate within Yorkshire and the Humber. In addition, we plan to develop a Yorkshire Vitality Index to measure the impacts of the levelling up programme in the region.

Read the position paper in full here.

Related news: Yorkshire and Humber Councils and Yorkshire Universities agree new Memorandum of Understanding

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Levelling up is not a zero-sum game

Dr Peter O’Brien, YU Executive Director

In last Sunday’s newspapers, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, confirmed that the government is planning to publish its long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper this week.

Whilst other events have pre-occupied the government recently, demand has nevertheless been growing for a clearer direction as to how the government proposes to address entrenched social and spatial disparities in England (and the wider UK), not least against a backdrop of an emergent cost of living crisis and evidence that Covid has widened inequalities. In advance of the White Paper, several reports have provided cogent analysis and templates for how the concept of levelling up can move beyond theory and into practical policies on the ground. Universities, of all shapes and sizes, have much to contribute to this agenda – something that Yorkshire Universities (YU) and our member institutions are committed to – as illustrated in YU’s current Strategy.

At YU, we unashamedly promote Yorkshire. But in doing so, we avoid a ‘beggar thy neighbour’ approach, seeing no merit in regions being pitted against other regions or cities and towns lined up against fellow cities and towns, scrapping for national resources. Indeed, along with many of our partners in Yorkshire and elsewhere, we back those who have encouraged the government to reduce the prevalence of national competitions for place-based funding and introduce more devolved mechanisms. YU’s mission is to help Yorkshire become more successful, and we undertake this task by making, wherever possible, a positive case for how more public and private sector investment could unlock greater potential, build on existing assets, and create more and better jobs. We are also seeking to persuade government to recognise how Yorkshire can play a more significant part in building a more productive, prosperous and greener national economy.

In a new blog for HEPI, this week, Diana Beech, CEO of London Higher, presented a strong argument as to why limited, and perhaps symbolic policy measures – e.g. removing HE London Weighting in the name of levelling up – can hurt some of the poorest communities and citizens of London. Diana and I have written together in the past about the shared challenges that London Higher and YU members and our economies and communities face. We have called upon national government to adopt a greater spatial focus to economic development policy, and we both recognise the value of universities working closely with devolved bodies, such as the Greater London Authority (and Mayor) and Mayoral Combined Authorities. As we await the White Paper, we want to see more devolution in London, Yorkshire and other regions in England, as strong and effective sub-national institutions are recognised internationally as a key ingredient of improved regional growth and prosperity.

Levelling up is difficult, and there are no short-cuts. Tackling poverty in London, generated and amplified, in part, by the high cost of housing, whilst at the same time investing more in regions like Yorkshire, is not a zero-sum game. The left-behind agenda has a regional dimension – as Yorkshire can testify to – but it is also a problem in London, which has been described as a ‘city of two halves’. The path to genuine levelling up does not lie in constraining the opportunity for prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds, wherever they live, to go to university. Levelling up will be undermined if particular measures on graduate outcomes, such as those proposed by the Office for Students, come to fruition, as these may accentuate existing spatial divisions of (higher) education. And neither will it succeed if, in perception or reality, it sees the transfer of direct or indirect funding between poorer communities across the country. Levelling up should be more transformative, equitable, strategic, and durable than that. The test now is whether the White Paper can provide a springboard for achieving positive impact and real change.

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CAPE Case Study: Richard Whittle, Policy Fellow (January 2022) 

Strengthening academic-policy engagement in West Yorkshire

First published in CAPEnews Issue 8, 25 January

CAPE is looking to understand how universities can mobilise their research findings and capabilities by working with local and regional authorities in order to enhance evidence-informed policymaking. CAPE’s West Yorkshire Policy Fellow was established in the context of West Yorkshire’s changing political landscape: the establishment of the region’s first Mayor.  

Through the fellowship, we are exploring how embedding knowledge brokerage within new political infrastructure can support place-based policy making processes, especially regarding the regions’ economic recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. In particular, CAPE is looking at how the fellow can enable linkages and engagement with West Yorkshire Combined Authority, local authorities, West Yorkshire universities and the Place-Based Economic Recovery Network (PERN) to delivery policy processes and outcomes that are driven by and support the regions’ communities.

We asked our CAPE policy fellow, Dr Richard Whittle, to reflect on what’s happened to date in his first 6 (of 12 months) in post.

A bit about me

I’m Dr Richard Whittle, an economist with a background in behavioural and computer science. I’m particularly interested in public policy formation and its evidence based, including the role of Artificial Intelligence in Public Policy, understanding of online communities and approaches to financing and investment. Broadly my research encompasses the impact of technology on society. Previously I led the MSc Taxation and Fiscal Policy developed with HMRC for Senior Civil Servants and recently led the review of the retail economy for the Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review. My latest research, funded by the ESRC Productivity Insights Network, investigates the future of retail in West Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire has the potential for meaningful and long-lasting academic policy engagement infrastructure

I was awarded a CAPE fellowship in July 2021 working with Yorkshire Universities, the Place-based Economic Recovery Network (PERN) and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, to lead an innovative project tasked with strengthening the use and application of university research to inform public policy in West Yorkshire. This got off to a rapid start and on my first day I received my second Covid vaccination and presented to the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board on the implications of C-19 on the future of retail in the region. This was a clear indication of how this fellowship would progress. The academic policy engagement infrastructure in West Yorkshire developed by Yorkshire Universities has the potential to be deep, meaningful and long-lasting and the CAPE fellowship is increasingly key in this process.

Place-based networks are strengthening engagement

The key vehicle in strengthening academic policy engagement in West-Yorkshire is the Place-Based Economic Recovery Network (PERN). PERN is an academic led, multi-university network of experts in place based economic recovery, regeneration and resilience. It was established to offer support to West Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, and other public bodies, such as local authorities in the design, plan and implementation of COVID recovery efforts.

PERN is a single body with an academic representative from each of the 7 West-Yorkshire Universities and provides multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary perspectives. It acts as a direct source of reference for the Combined and Local Authorities as well as support for the CAPE fellowship. Via the fellowship, PERN have been invited to engage with numerous policy makers and policy professionals at many levels within West-Yorkshire. PERN has developed evidence and engaged meaningfully with policy in several aspects of economic recovery, the safety of women and girls, regional tax policy, skills development, innovation mapping and much more. Crucially several impactful policy co-creation relationships have been established supporting policy professionals and academic research impact.

We are shifting towards regional policy engagement

Prior to the fellowship starting, the academic policy engagement culture was strong, especially between a university and its local government, though usually a function of relationships between a small number of academics and policy professionals. The fellowship has helped facilitate policy engagement between the West-Yorkshire University Sector and regional policy in general. This is a key shift in supporting evidence based policy in West-Yorkshire.

Dr Richard Whittle is playing a crucial role in building on the initial building blocks designed to strengthen academic research and policy engagement in West Yorkshire, principally through the West Mayoral Combined Authority. Research and evidence is seen increasingly as essential to informing and shaping effective policy and strategy in West Yorkshire in the areas of local and regional development, social mobility, policy and crime strategy, economic intelligence and foresight.

Dr Pete O’Brien, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities

The fellowship has also embraced and developed a number of initiatives for academic policy engagement including directly funded research, roundtables with selected academic experts and relevant policy leads, the creation of expert directories, evidence submissions and representation on numerous policy committees. Above all however is the facilitation of trusted partnerships and academic policy relationships developing a longer term cultural shift in academic policy engagement. The fellowship provides an important conduit and stable point of contact between the multiple policy and academic actors in West Yorkshire.

Our outputs and what we’re looking towards

PERN have supported a workstream examining ‘the barriers to working class participation in policy making’ and expect the first piece of academic research in this stream to be available shortly. This will be accompanied by a succession of policy engagement measures bringing the PERN academic community together in a vitally important issue and supporting evidence based policy development

PERN, Yorkshire Universities and this fellowship is making a considerable impact in numerous and varied areas, bringing together academics, policy makers and policy professionals to inform and co-create policy. For example working in collaboration with the Combined Authority, PERN has commissioned an academic evidence review examining the safety of women and girls in West Yorkshire.  This ongoing policy engagement is led by researchers from the None In Three Research Centre based at the University of Huddersfield and is a key demonstration of PERN supporting academic policy engagement.

Fellowships deepen understanding of how to connect with policy

My CAPE fellowship has had a huge positive impact on my development as a policy focussed academic, I have far greater insight into the policy making process and its evidence base enabling the strengthening of my research and its own impact. I would urge every academic who researches a policy relevant area to consider a fellowship working with policy making institutions to really understand how they can connect with policy.

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