Region’s universities sign first-ever agreement to tackle local issues together

Region’s universities sign first-ever agreement to tackle local issues together

Universities and councils across Leicestershire have signed an historic agreement to work together to drive economic growth and tackle social challenges across the region.

The University of Leicester, De Montfort University (DMU) and Loughborough University have agreed to combine skills, experience and resources to deliver joint projects supporting the local economy, arts and culture, sports and more.

Called the Universities Partnership, it has been drawn up by the universities together with a number of local authorities: Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council, Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, Rutland County Council, and Charnwood Borough Council.

In working with local authorities across the region in this way, the agreement is a unique collaborative approach which will help direct work carried out into projects which will provide the most benefit to the area.

Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester City Mayor, said: “We welcome the formal commitment being made by the universities to support local communities, particularly as it comes at a time when residents, businesses and the local economy are facing such significant challenges.

“We look forward to working even more closely with all three universities and the other local councils involved to do all we can to address poverty and inequality in our communities, and to increase prosperity for the city and wider economic area.”

Councillor Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, said: “I’m pleased that our universities want to involve themselves more in our local communities and I strongly support this innovative collaboration.

“Its focus on boosting skills, driving the economy and cutting carbon mirrors the County Council’s priorities and will help us to continue shaping thriving communities across Leicestershire.”

Between them, the three universities generate a big impact locally, contributing a total of £1 billion to the Leicester and Leicestershire economy, supporting nearly 17,000 jobs.

Individually, they have carried out many projects and initiatives which have brought benefits to the region. 

But for the first time, with the Universities Partnership, the universities will work together on projects in five key areas:

  • Education – working in partnership with local schools, colleges, businesses and wider communities, the universities will support the educational recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by creating educational skills and opportunities that enable local people from all backgrounds to flourish.
  • The Economy – the universities will help drive inward investment into the region, build partnerships with businesses, work to retain more graduates locally, invest in local resources and apply the world-leading research carried out on campus directly into the community.
  • Sport, Health and Wellbeing – the universities will work with local communities to identify the health inequalities in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and, through using expertise and working with health partners, improve the health and wellbeing of diverse communities.
  • Environmental Sustainability – along with reducing their own carbon footprints, the universities will encourage behavioural change across the region through educational programmes, including carbon literacy training and sustainability audits. They will also deliver research which can support adaptation to climate change and ensure clean, affordable air, water, sanitation and energy for the region.
  • Arts, Culture and Heritage – Working with partners and communities, the universities will work to enhance the thriving local arts, creative, cultural and heritage landscape, by supporting and holding bold, creative cultural events. They will also creatively celebrate the region’s diversity and inclusion and promote the region as a national destination.

The Vice-Chancellors of Leicestershire's three universities with leaders and members from local authorities at the launch of the Universities Partnership.

The full agreement is available online and its publication was announced at an event held at LCB Depot, where university leaders joined Sir Peter Soulsby, Councillor Nick Rushton and leaders from Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, Rutland County Council, and Charnwood Borough Council.

The agreement has been spearheaded by the universities’ three Vice-Chancellors, Professor Katie Normington of DMU, Professor Nishan Canagarajah of University of Leicester and Professor Nick Jennings of Loughborough University.

In a joint statement, the three VCs said: “Any university is only as strong as the communities within which it operates, and all three of our institutions are fortunate to uphold long-standing connections to the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

“In signing this historic agreement, we pledge to combine our diverse expertise to tackle the challenges which face us all, and to provide an even greater positive impact on our region.

“While we celebrate our differences, the common values which we all sustain ensure that we are stronger together, as a Universities Partnership.”

Charnwood and Oadby and Wigston borough councils have worked alongside the region’s universities for many years. Charnwood is home to Loughborough University while the majority of the University of Leicester estate is located in the borough of Oadby and Wigston.

Councillor Jonathan Morgan, leader of Charnwood Borough Council, said: “Loughborough University is an integral part of the Charnwood community and we have been working together for a long time. However, this civic agreement takes that partnership to a new level. 

“We are facing some significant challenges as we emerge from the pandemic and it is important we work across all sectors to improve the economic and social outcomes for residents.”

Councillor John Boyce, leader of Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, said: “We welcome this initiative from the universities to use their myriad of skills, resources and experience to work in collaboration with our communities and the Council to deliver meaningful and impactful results for the benefit of all.

“Now that this formal partnership is in place we look forward to building off our existing relationships and seeing these thrive as we use our collective strengths to increase the prosperity of our borough and surrounding areas.”

Councillor Lucy Stephenson, leader of Rutland County Council, said: “Few people would argue that our society is facing some big challenges. However, every challenge can be an opportunity when we pool our collective knowledge, expertise and resources to tackle things together. This is a hugely exciting partnership with the potential to achieve great things for people who live in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.”