A new national assessment of how universities contribute to regional economies and communities highlights the strength of universities in the Midlands in helping to promote economic growth.
The Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) published (31 March) by Research England shows the economic and social contributions English higher education providers make to communities, at both a local and national level.
More than 100 institutions provided detailed narrative accounts of how they build public and community engagement, and promote economic growth in their local area. The narratives paint a detailed, never-seen-before picture of how universities engage with their communities to build deeper relationships and to stimulate local growth.
The KEF reveals that universities in the Midlands are particularly successful in driving local growth and regeneration. Nine of our universities are in the top 20% for local growth and regeneration, with the Universities of Birmingham, Bishop Grosseteste, Derby, Keele, Leicester and Wolverhampton placed in the top 10% nationally.
Midlands Enterprise Universities and Midlands Innovation represent the majority of universities in our region.
Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor at Keele University and Chair of Midlands Innovation, has been at the forefront of enhancing knowledge exchange across the country in his national role as Knowledge Exchange Champion for Research England. Professor McMillan said:
The KEF is designed to provide an evaluation that helps universities and their partners play to each other’s strengths and to work together to have productive outcomes for the economy and society more broadly.
The new data show that the Midlands is in a strong position to ensure that world-class research and education provision in our universities will play a critical role in the further development of the Midlands as a strong economic force as well as help our communities recover from the impact of the last year.
The KEF also highlights the key role that Midlands universities play in working with business. Eight of our universities are in the top 20% nationally, with the Universities of Cranfield, Derby, Harper Adams, Loughborough and Nottingham in the top 10% nationally.
Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Derby and Chair of Midlands Enterprise Universities, said:
KEF is a hugely important measure of a university’s impact and is a chance to showcase the extent of our support for the economic, social and cultural life of our community and region.
We strongly believe we have a responsibility to give businesses the chance to benefit from the funding we can provide access to and the resources and expertise we can offer to support research and development. This helps to make our business community more competitive and our region more prosperous.
Universities in the Midlands are also ranked in the top 10% nationally for public and community engagement, skills, enterprise and entrepreneurship, research partnerships and work with the public sector.
Reacting to the KEF, Chairman of the Midlands Engine, Sir John Peace, said:
I am delighted but not surprised that universities across the Midlands have been recognised as exemplars on the new national Knowledge Exchange Framework.
Our universities play an integral role in the Midlands and beyond. We only have to look at the way Universities have supported businesses, industry, local communities and the public sector during the pandemic – be that through training and releasing final year medical students to become NHS Doctors and Nurses serving on the frontline at the start of the pandemic, or providing a vast array of support initiatives to help businesses. They have also donated food and voluntary services to support local communities and undertaken key COVID research, helping not just our national pandemic efforts, but across the globe too.