University think-tank “million+” has produced a report looking at the sharp variations in regional growth in the UK, and highlighting that the return to growth in the national economy has not been reflected in regions outside London.
It comes after a separate study, as reported in the Journal yesterday, showed that the number of graduates being employed by the region’s biggest employers has fallen.
The million+ report shows that almost 80% of graduates working in the North East studied in the region and estimates that the economic impact of these graduates is worth nearly £1.4bn per year to the regional economy.
The million+ manifesto urges the government to adapt a raft of policies to boost student numbers and university funding.
Proposals include the use of receipts from the sale of the student loan book to set regional targets to boost the number of people with high-level qualifications and create 50,000 additional postgraduate places linked to part-time courses with a professional, industry or public service focus; a new stream of funding for translational research geared towards universities which do not receive as much public research investment; schemes to allow universities to be more responsive to the needs of local employers, and review the role of the 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships created since 2010.
Professor Michael Gunn, chair of the university think-tank, said: “Local initiatives and a focus on core cities outside London will not in themselves tackle the sharp differences in regional growth in the UK. In the run-up to the election, political parties need to be much more ambitious. Universities have long been recognised as key economic, social and cultural powerhouses in their localities and they should be centre-stage in a new strategy for the regions.
“This report uses new economic modelling which confirms that graduates add real value to the regions in which they study.
“It is clear that investment in higher education delivers big regional pay-offs for employers and the Treasury as well as individuals.
“Our manifesto for the regions will unlock talent, support business and ensure that the benefits of the economic recovery are more equally shared to create a smarter Britain.”
Rachel Wenstone, NUS vice president (higher education), said: “Universities and colleges have always been key drivers in their communities and they should be central in helping to tackle regional unemployment and underemployment, and to help boost social growth and capital.
“A collaborative response is crucial to ensure that regional recovery is generated in the most effective way, including working together with local government, employers, and Local Enterprise Partnerships.”
Yesterday, we reported how opportunities for graduates in the North East have plunged by more than 45% in a year.
In 2011/12, just 95 university leavers were taken on by the firms who employed the most graduates in the region – down from 175 the year before.
But, even at its peak, the number of jobs available to those with a new degree was far below other areas such as the South East – reinforcing fears of a “brain drain” towards London.
The figures were compiled by TheCompleteUniversityGuide.co.uk, which based its findings on the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey.