Panel: What role does higher education play in creating communities?

Panellists: Martin Davies, Pro Vice Chancellor, Kingston University; Diana Beech, Chief Executive, London Higher; Rosemary Nunn, Executive Director, University of Greenwich; Richard Keogh, Vice-Provost, University of Roehampton

Higher education is ‘driving the link between mobility and social value’ to support communities now and in the future.

Higher Education panel
During the panel discussion, ‘what role does Higher Education play in creating thriving communities?’ Rosemary Nunn, executive director, University of Greenwich, said links between education and business were interdependent.

She told the audience: “We’re looking for more diverse ways to engage employability and to drive student experience. We’re looking for more organisations to engage with us and understand the skills gap that exists when graduates come out of university, and sometimes they’re not as job ready as they should be. And that also plays into the skill shortage.

“We’re driving the link between social mobility and social value. If you don’t provide the value proposition from the university out to businesses, they’re not going to really see the reason to engage back. We’re really looking to drive that relationship between industry and academia.”

Diana Beech, chief executive, London Higher, explained her membership organisation for universities and higher education colleges across the capital went beyond their walls to support communities. London Higher’s civic map has 250 examples of these activities, from climate-conscious work to cultural events such as Queen Mary’s University’s Bengali Festival.

She added: “With students, higher education is doubling down on enterprise and entrepreneurship, and embedding that in courses to create not only the people that are going to go on and empower companies, but also create their own companies and bring innovation to market.

“They are also focusing on the skills of the future and the skills that we don’t yet know we need. Green skills are an example of that.”

But she added: “We need flexible pathways to build the lifelong learning agenda and meet different students’ needs.”

Richard Keogh, vice-provost, University of Roehampton, announced that Roehampton is launching a new school for continuing education in September 2023, bridging the gap between academic, vocational and technical.

He said: “I think one of the challenges we have in South London, with the higher proportion of SMEs and micro businesses, is that universities are very good at research and innovation but what they are less good at is business support.

“[At Roehampton], we are really investing in, and trying to develop, long-term partnerships with SMEs and micro businesses that will enable them to start-up, scale up and move along this innovation journey over a period of time, rather than initially looking to broker those innovation relationships. The smaller organisations may not be in a position to do that yet, they don’t have the bandwidth. It’s really about understanding your local place and ensuring that the support services you’re offering reflect that.”

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