Introducing YU’s new Policy and Research Officer

Marina Tapley, Policy and Research Officer

I joined Yorkshire Universities (YU) in November as the new Policy and Research Officer. After being part of the Executive Team for over a month, I am taking the opportunity to introduce myself, and to reflect on what I have enjoyed getting involved with at YU so far, and what I am most looking forward to in this role.

I recently attended a Yorkshire University myself; I am a graduate in International Relations and French from the University of Leeds. During my studies, I covered a broad range of topics, but focused on the theme of security and linked security to UK climate policy in my dissertation, where I examined the reactions of different actors to the climate crisis. I also worked on counter-terrorism research, as part of a Laidlaw Research and Leadership Scholarship that enabled me to co-author a journal article and policy brief, as well as to present my research at academic conferences.

One of my favourite parts of student life was the clubs and societies I was involved with. I am passionate about environmental and social justice, so I was especially proud to help establish the University of Leeds Student-Staff Climate Coalition from its inception during my final year. I am really optimistic about the roles that YU and its member institutions can play in our region’s response to the climate crisis and in particular their relationship with the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission (YHCC). Since starting at YU, I have learned about the work of the YHCC Research & Evidence Panel, including its current mapping exercise of existing expertise, and I am excited to see how this will support the implementation of the new YHCC Climate Action Plan. Universities are vital in helping the region address the climate emergency, and I hope to help YU coordinate collaboration in this area.

As part of my undergraduate studies, I also spent a year abroad in Brussels working for a consultancy firm, IBF International Consulting, and had the opportunity to support an EU-funded capacity building project, Election Observation and Democracy Support (EODS). At EODS, I managed and updated a database of caselaw relating to electoral and political rights. I am enthusiastic to build on my interest in political systems within a different context to improve my understanding of the governance structures in the region at an exciting time of change, following the election of the first West Yorkshire Mayor, now in situ alongside the Mayor of South Yorkshire. I am interested to see how devolution evolves in Yorkshire and how universities can support existing and emerging leadership within the region.

After graduating, I worked for a domestic abuse charity on a pilot project, in partnership with Birmingham City Council, providing tailored housing support to women fleeing domestic violence. In this role, I saw some of the barriers facing university students trying to flee domestic abuse, particularly given that most full-time university students are not eligible for housing benefit to cover the cost of emergency accommodation, such as refuge. Since starting at YU, I have continued to work in this area, supporting an ongoing evidence review on the safety of women and girls, commissioned by the Place Based Economic Recovery, Regeneration and Resilience Network (PERN) and led by the University of Huddersfield. The evidence review will enable the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to develop a new strategy to support the safety of women and girls, a key manifesto pledge of the West Yorkshire Mayor, Tracy Brabin. Through my role at YU, I hope to contribute further to this collaboration, which aims to improve prevention of gender-based violence and support victims and survivors. I am also looking forward, more broadly, to help facilitate academic research expertise to help shape policy and support local leadership.

As someone who graduated in 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I welcome the fact that universities in Yorkshire are working closer together to support students and graduates. One example is the Yorkshire and the Humber Student Mental Health Network, which brings together the region’s universities and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities to encourage greater collaboration around mental health support for students.  I have also been involved in YU’s Graduate Labour Market Task & Finish Group, which aims to support graduate employment and enterprise. Here, it has been fascinating to learn about the vast range of initiatives that exist to support students and graduates to access employment in Yorkshire, and the potential to strengthen the region’s offer further.

One of main reasons I wanted to work for YU is to contribute towards the organisation’s key role in facilitating broad partnerships with a range of actors across the region, which aim to help reduce inequities and create a more inclusive region.  Universities are increasingly focused on their place within local communities and how they support local and regional development, as illustrated in the framework agreed by YU and Yorkshire and Humber Councils in their recent Memorandum of Understanding.

As YU’s Policy and Research Officer, I have an excellent opportunity to put into practice the policy and research skills that I have learned during my studies and since graduation. I am looking forward to continuing my development across a wide range of interesting topics covered by YU’s varied work. Personally, I am also delighted to have the opportunity to move back home to Yorkshire, and to deepen my knowledge and understanding of, and connection to, this brilliant region.

  • Share this post:

Yorkshire Universities welcomes the publication of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan

Responding to the publication of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan, Dr Peter O’Brien, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities, and Commissioner on the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, said:

Yorkshire Universities (YU) welcomes the publication of the first Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan. This is a serious and thoughtful document, which provides a clear framework for the region to harness its collective assets and capabilities to deliver the actions needed to respond to the climate emergency. As the Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, said yesterday, there is no greater challenge facing humanity than climate change. 

As a Commissioner, I welcome the fact that the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan has been developed following extensive public consultation. All people, places and stakeholders in the region need to feel ownership of the Plan if we are to see a just transition to a net zero carbon future. 

Universities in Yorkshire and the Humber have been at the forefront of scientific efforts to identify the issues causing and resulting from climate change, and to help society take forward the technological and behavioural changes needed to ensure that communities, industry and infrastructure become more resilient in the face of more extreme weather events. Yorkshire’s universities have demonstrated their unique value to the global movements that have been evident during COP26. Equally, within Yorkshire and the Humber, our universities have shown real leadership as the new Regional Action Plan has taken shape. 

As we now move towards implementation, the region’s universities, of all types, will be invited to contribute towards the next stage of the Commission’s work. It’s a responsibility I know Yorkshire’s universities, with the support of YU, are ready to embrace. 

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
@YorkshireUnis

  • Share this post:

The climate emergency requires local and regional action in Yorkshire

Monika Antal, Executive Manager

This week saw the launch of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission. This independent advisory group brings together a team of climate leaders from across the public, private and third sectors to work collaboratively with local authorities to help drive climate action and respond to the most serious threats facing the region.

Read more

  • Share this post:

Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission press release: Ambitious climate partnership for Yorkshire and Humber

As published on the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission’s website on 27 January 2021.

Leaders from councils, businesses, utilities, unions, environmental groups and universities from across Yorkshire and Humber are coming together to tackle the climate crisis head on through a major new partnership.

The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, which is set to launch formally in March, will provide an independent voice to help support and track the delivery of ambitious climate actions across the region.

Read more

  • Share this post:

Graduate labour market analysis and post-pandemic skills (Part 2 of 2)

At national policy level:

YU has been recognised as an external stakeholder in the COP26 University Network, which is a growing group of UK-based universities working together to raise ambition for tangible outcomes from the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021. The Network’s mission is to ensure that the UK academic sector plays a full role in delivering a successful COP26, encouraging all actors to deliver a low-carbon, resilient world. They aim to do so by making access to research evidence and academic expertise for COP26 easier for government, NGOs, and other actors, and by taking action themselves.

Read more

  • Share this post:

Yorkshire Universities & Arup regional roundtable on the climate emergency: a summary

Monika Antal and James Ransom

The COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity to accelerate efforts to tackle the climate emergency that should be capitalised on, representatives from Yorkshire’s universities agreed at the 5 May virtual roundtable convened by Yorkshire Universities and Arup. Several key themes emerged:

Read more

  • Share this post:

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.

Read more

  • Share this post: