Comment | 'What do universities do for our region'?
By Professor Trevor McMillan OBE, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University. This article first appeared in the Stoke Sentinel as a Personally Speaking column in April 2023.
Keele University was established in 1949 with a very clear remit to support the communities in North Staffordshire and beyond. As we move towards our 75th anniversary next year we have been reflecting on how we continue to have an impact in the city and region.
At our heart we are here to educate our students and perform research that pushes the boundaries of human knowledge and improves the lives of people at home and abroad. At Keele we have grown from less than 10,000 students to more than 13,000 students in the last few years, and we provide learning opportunities in various formats including full time undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, apprenticeships, part time course and online courses. Nearly 50% of our students come from the West Midlands, with over 30% from the local region, so the impact we have on young people in the area as well as those who come back to education later in life is enormous.
We are very proud of the fact that our students come from a very wide range that they do very well when they leave us. For example, we have graduated thousands of nurses and doctors into the NHS, and there are many staff in the NHS that work closely with us to help improve the quality of health provision in the area.
But in doing our education and research we have a much broader impact and this has been well described in a recent independent report that has looked at our contribution to the area. We support the equivalent of almost 5,500 jobs in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, rising to over 7,000 in the wider region. These include our 2,000 employees, 1,000 of whom live in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent, and the many others that either provide services to the University directly or through our staff and students. With the direct spending by the University and the spending of our staff and students we contribute around half a billion pounds to the West Midlands economy each year, with over half of this (£345m) in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire area.
The Keele Science and Innovation Park is one of the great employment success stories in the region. Integrated into our campus, the Park provides facilities for over 50 companies employing over 700 people. This will expand as we open up spaces in our two new Innovation Centres dedicated to Veterinary Science and the Digital Economy. But its reach goes beyond the campus residents. For example, over the last few years, working with the local councils in Newcastle, Stoke and Staffordshire, we have provided support to over 800 businesses, and hundreds of students having had placements in local organisations with many of them getting permanent jobs with those organisations when they leave university. Within Newcastle under Lyme alone Keele's business support activities have positively impacted over 175 businesses, supporting over 170 jobs in the Borough and generating over £18m of economic impact.
Universities are complex organisations and by the nature of what we do we work all around the world. But at Keele we strive to hang on to that 1949 vision of a University that benefits its locality. We also recognise how much we gain from quality of the people and the organisations in the area that we work with. By developing a reputation as a high quality education and research establishment and using this to contribute to the local economy and the success of the people in the area we can have an enormous impact and I personally hope that we are a university that North Staffordshire can be proud of.
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