Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive
Why should universities be part of the devolution debate? We think that they should be central to it.
Universities have a significant economic, cultural and social impact on the towns and cities in which we live. They contribute billions of pounds in off-campus expenditure through their students and staff, and directly employ nearly 380,000 people throughout the UK (and are often the largest employer in the area).
Universities can also ensure that there are enough highly-skilled graduates to meet the needs of local employers – ranging from the more ‘traditional’ route of undergraduate and post graduate degrees, as well as work based learning programmes, higher apprenticeships, and a range of other full-time and part-time programmes. Around three quarters of new jobs created by 2020 will require these high-level skills according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.
Universities already work in close partnership with our public services. They educate the professionals who staff our NHS and our schools. They provide the research skills, specialist knowledge and advanced facilities to improve health, transport, art and culture, smart infrastructure and so much more. Every university prides itself on being both an anchor institution for its local community and a connector to the wider national and international opportunities.
Devolution is not an end in itself though and any partnerships created between universities, councils, businesses and other key local constituents must live beyond any devolution deal.
The rhetoric of devolution must be backed up by policies and support to make it real. Devolution cannot be about passing the pain of public service cuts to local level. It must be about real partnerships, bringing together all the assets of a locality or region, to play the region’s strengths and generate improvements for all. Universities are a core asset. We need to be sure that they are involved!