Northern universities “critical to the success of the regional economy.”

The opening address of the inaugural Educate North Conference was delivered by one of the country’s leading academics, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, the 50th Anniversary Professor of Organizational Psychology & Health, Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester.

He began by revealing research carried out for the conference by Liverpool University, demonstrating the significance of the further education sector to the regional economy.

In 2013-2014 there were 520,000 students studying in northern universities, 28% of the total for the whole of England and 23% for the whole of the UK.

The Northern universities had 115,000 post graduate students or 26% of the total for the whole of England and 21% for the whole of the UK;  with the University of Manchester having 11,500 - the largest single centre for  post graduate study in the country.

The Yorkshire universities alone had 193,000 students or 10% of all students in England.

As a city, Manchester had 5% of all the students in England.

In 2013-2014 the northern universities employed 40,000 academic staff, 25% of the total for  England and 4 times that number of other staff—a huge employer in the region.

And in that year, the northern universities total expenditure in the region was £6b or 25% of the total expenditure for England. In addition, the northern universities own out was worth £6 billion and the knock on effect in other businesses in the region another £7–8 billion —higher than London and the South East.

“The north has always been at the forefront of change, from the suffragette movement and universal suffrage to the start of the trade union movement to the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in 1844 in the creation of the cooperative enterprise,” said Professor Cooper.

“The north has led the way, and now as the vehicle for the country’s business powerhouse, will lead the way again toward a dynamic & competitive economy,  supported by great Northern universities.”


Prof Ian Stewart - Executive City Mayor Salford - “learning is not just the filling of the vessel - it is the kindling of a flame”

 It is a pleasure to welcome you to this timely conference, in which all partners connected with the learning sector will address the issue of why it is important to ‘Educate the North’ and what we are singly and collectively doing to achieve this.

I believe that a collaborative approach is an absolute necessity if we are to take the concept of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ from vision to reality.

The world around us is changing rapidly. This accelerated change brings great challenges but it also brings great opportunities. I believe we are at the start of the journey where we in the North can through the increasing devolution of real power to the regions become more effective and productive by enhanced collaboration; identifying shared interests, innovating and achieving more positive outcomes for the people we serve. In my view this cooperative approach is the most appropriate and effective way can we challenge austerity measures, create pathways out of deprivation and poverty, meet our people’s aspirations and at the same time seek to become net contributors to the national economy.

Learning and education will, in my view be the catalyst which will allow us to develop out of austerity and into prosperity. However, I believe that this will only happen if the private sector, the public sector, the non-statutory third sector, the learning sector and other partners all work together towards a common agreed aim.

This high level of collaboration in the North has been sought, but never achieved or sustained in the past. However with trust relations between partners and regions growing on the back of discussions regarding transport infrastructure eg HS2 HS3, across the North of Britain we have in my view the opportunity of a lifetime to widen those discussions out to identify the wider shared interests of the people of the North of England and potentially wider still. The transport infrastructure cannot and will not stop at Carlisle!

I am told that the ancient socialist philosopher from Salford - Socrates stated “that learning is not just the filling of the vessel - it is the kindling of a flame”. Well in my view, you collectively have the opportunity to stoke this learning fire; powering the engine that will drive the re-emergent “Northern Powerhouse” in the interests of the people of the North of Britain.

The learning sector will play a crucial role in ensuring that our workforce has the skill sets that will enable them to access those decent jobs and to create the productivity that is necessary to drive that economic growth in an inclusive and more equitable way.

With the devolution of real decision-making power to English regions like Greater Manchester and those throughout the North, we can take collective actions to grow our economies and create decent jobs with decent terms and conditions. Making our cities and regions a great place for people to live, learn, work and socialise together.


The challenges and opportunities facing Higher Education in the North - Caroline Cowburn, HE Funding Council for England

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‌The Higher Education Funding Council was set up to create and sustain the conditions for a world-leading system of higher education which transforms lives, strengthens the economy, and enriches society.

Regional Consultant Caroline Cowburn began her address to the Educate North Conference by highlighting some of the successes achieved through the combination of Higher Education partnerships and investment including:

The Graphene project

The Sir Henry Royce Institute

N8 Agri-food resilience

Thornton Science Park

University enterprise zone (Liverpool)

Newcastle Institute for Ageing

White Rose Industrial Physics Academy

National College for Nuclear

Caroline raised the importance of HEIs (universities) within their locality, but also institutions as global players, attracting students from across the globe. For example 64% of students who study in Lancashire live in the North West whilst 71% of students who study in the NW region stay here to take up employment opportunities. At the same time North Eastern and Sheffield have the highest proportion of International (non EU) students boasting 17% for both whilst Sheffield and York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEPs recruit the highest proportion of students from outside their regions – both 49%.

Whilst Higher Education is enjoying a period of expansion and success Caroline highlighted some of the challenges facing the sector including student recruitment, International and EU recruitment and the impact on income should foreign recruitment fall and public funding constraints. At the same time she raised the prospect of new opportunities such as developing further apprenticeships and higher level skills, enhanced employer engagement, delivering programmes specific to employers and flexible delivery.

Some of the questions facing the sector over the next few year include:

How to maintain or increase income?

How to respond to competition locally, regionally, nationally and globally?

How to adapt to societal change?

How to enhance quality whilst improving efficiency?

How to capitalise on research innovation?

Who and how to engage locally, regionally, nationally and globally?  

Positive approaches to answering these questions will, said Caroline, “lead to creating a diverse, adaptable and resilient sector.”


“Northern universities threatened by Government’s ambivalent attitude” - Jeremy Lindley, Director of Finance, University of York

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The University of York has been given the accolades of University of the Year by both the Sunday Times (2003) and the Times Higher Education (2009).

The university was also last year classed 14th (out of 144 universities) for Research quality and 10th for Research impact. In 2012 it also became a member of the Russell Group which represents 24 leading UK universities, committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.

“We were founded in 1963 with 230 students,” revealed Mr Lindley. “Now fifty years later we have 15,000 students and over the last ten years our income has grown by 102%, student volumes have grown by 50% and our research income has grown by 52%.”

In the York area the university generates more than 7,000 jobs (8.2% of all jobs) and additional income streams of more than £300 million.

20% of students are from outside the UK with over 100 languages spoken from 130 countries. 20% of staff are also from outside the UK.

“We bring in a lot of income from overseas students but the biggest threat to us is the Government’s ambivalent attitude towards international students,” explained Mr Lindley.

“We have rising competition from the US – at the moment they’re not great at recruiting but we all know the Americans learn quickly and in five years they will be targeting the same overseas students as us. We can’t underestimate how worried we are about Government policy as regards the austerity impact on funding and immigration control.”

Mr Lindley went on to say that the sector is in a period of revolutionary change with increasing commercialisation and a demand rather than supply led model which is likely to continue till 2020.

“We need to increase flexibility and mitigate risk, focus on our existing areas on excellence and develop areas where we can generate surpluses.”


Financial and commercial challenges facing HE and FE - Andrew Bush, Director of HE, KPMG UK

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Andrew began his address to the Educate North Conference by giving an overview of the economic power shifts.

“By 2030, 35% of the world’s population will live in China and India. Developing countries will be home to 440 of the world’s fastest growing cities generating 47% of global GDP. Currently developing countries account for 37% of global trade”.

To compete with the emerging economies Andrew went on to outline what made cities successful.

“They attract young wealth creators, they have a definable city identity, they undergo constant physical renewal, cultivate new ideas, fundraise and have strong leaders.

“In the region skills are key in enabling economic success. This needs to be addressed by prioritising and aligning the allocation of resources and the skills need to be retained. We need to prioritise and harmonise the local agenda for skills with institutional strategies and FE, HE, LEPs and employers need to work as one.”

He went on to say that in the future universities and colleges needed to develop a global outlook and presence, form employer collaborations and partnerships, be IT led, create multi-campuses both at home and overseas, create a back office revolution and develop significant investment programmes.

Predicting what the university of 2025 might look like he stated it would offer:

Teaching focussed only in its areas of national / world leading expertise that is aligned with employer and regional / national needs

Teaching that is developed locally, but delivered globally

Delivering strategically important, but financially challenged teaching in collaboration with other institutions

Focussed and sustainable internationally recognised research that is supporting global PLC and delivered through a partner network

Back office services that are commissioned from external providers

A mobile and flexible workforce, some of which work jointly with other institutions

A flexible model for the provision of the estate and facilities

To sum up he said that for higher education institutions to thrive in the future they needed to create a strong focus and identity, develop relationships and collaborations, deliver innovative approaches and create both regional and international agendas.


PRIMING THE POWERHOUSE – ENGLAND’S NORTH WEST Professor Colin Bailey, Deputy President, University of Manchester

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There have been 34 Nobel Laureates associated with the North West – 3 of them from Manchester.

The North West is the largest manufacturing base in the UK.

94% of businesses in the North West are successful after their first year.

North West Primary Schools are ranked the 3rd best in the country.

These are just some of the statistics Professor Bailey highlighted in his speech to the Educate North Conference to illustrate the powerhouse that is the North West of England.

“Manchester has the fastest growing regional economy and the economic leader in the UK behind only London,” said Professor Bailey.

“In 2014 it was ranked the most competitive business city in Europe for the third year running by KPMG and we’re known for our world-class research.”

Professor Bailey went on to describe the success of the Graphene project.

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene."

Graphene has many extraordinary properties. It is about 200 times stronger than steel by weight, conducts heat and electricity with great efficiency and is nearly transparent. Researchers have identified the bipolar transistor effect, ballistic transport of charges and large quantum oscillations in the material.

“Manchester is the home of the £61m National Graphene Institute and £60m Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre with more than 200 researchers across 30 academic groups, working with more than 35 industrial partners.

The project was funded with a £38m grant from the UK Government (EPSRC) and a £23m grant from the European Union (ERDF).

Professor Bailey also revealed the latest news regarding The Sir Henry Royce Institute for Materials Research and Innovation.

 The University of Manchester will be home to this new national research and innovation centre in advanced materials.

The institute will allow the UK to grow its world-leading research base in advanced-materials science, which is fundamental to all industrial sectors and the national economy.

The new Institute, supported by industrial partners, will have its £235m research centre in Manchester.  The Manchester centre will be supported by satellite centres or ‘spokes’ at the founding partners, comprising the universities of Sheffield, Leeds,  Liverpool, Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London.

The nuclear materials component of the centre, one of 14 such components, will be supported by facilities at the National Nuclear Laboratory in Cumbria and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. The founding partners’ facilities will be enhanced to a value of £132m. 

“It’s important that we continue to compete on an international stage,” explained Professor Bailey.

“We see students as our ‘partners’ and we need to continue to attract future students and provide them with the skills to compete on a global stage.

“This includes international students and like other universities we’re concerned the government’s approach on immigration may affect our ability to attract students from overseas.

“International students bring in much needed income but more importantly we develop long term business relationships with them – necessary if we’re to continue having the same successes as we have with projects like Graphene.”


Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council

“Size matters,” said Sir Richard in his address to the Educate North Conference.

“In the UK, outside of London, Manchester is relatively small with a population of two and a half million people. This is small compared to the large growing cities elsewhere in the world.”

Sir Richard went on to say that the major population centres in the North are all relatively close together – no more than 50KM from Manchester city centre. This is why it’s important to improve transport links to create what he calls a ‘super-city’.

“Manchester is still not as competitive as other cities in Europe but it has the potential for growth, mostly through the knowledge sector. The removal of the student cap and development of academic research create opportunities but this needs to be balanced with skills shortages and reductions in funding.

“A lot of growth is in the SME sector and the ultimate goal is to grow the knowledge economy and reduce the dependency on benefits.”

Sir Richard said the predicted growth for the area is significant; 17% growth in business and financial services, 14% in science and construction and 10% in hospitality and tourism over the next ten years. All these sectors though require at least a level 3 as well as theoretical skills.

“We are however well equipped to supply skills for the knowledge economy. Students are staying in the city after graduating, we’re investing in HE infrastructure, we have 3000 learners in digital industries, we’re increasingly employer led and all of this is underpinned by improving school and early year’s education.

“The next five years are going to be very exciting and rewarding.”


Mr LI Yongsheng, Consul General of China in Manchester

It is a great honour for me to stand here and share with you our opinions regarding high-level education in this region.

First of all, I shall thank Professor Phil Harris and your colleagues for inviting me to this wonderful conference.

I am delighted to be able to address this important conference as the knowledge sector is critical to the future growth and success of the Northern economy.

On behalf of the Chinese Consulate General in Manchester, I shall congratulate all the awards run-ups and winners.

I am from China, the country which had the great educator Confucius whose philosophy is integrated in the daily life of the Chinese people. Among all the things that Confucius taught us is “ ????” ? which if literally translated might be“teaching without discrimination”.

I am very glad to see the distinguished universities in the North of England, which is similar to our Consular District, are actually practicing the adage of Confucius, as shown in the fact that all the universities represented here today have some students from China, ranging from several scor