Universities partnership brings economic benefits to Leicestershire in first year

A partnership of universities in Leicester and Loughborough has, within its first year, brought benefits to local businesses, schoolchildren and international visitors across the region.

It has been just over 12 months since the University of Leicester, De Montfort University and Loughborough University joined forces with the five local authorities in the county through a civic agreement to form the Universities Partnership (UP). 

Centred around five themes: Arts, Culture and Heritage; Environmental Sustainability; Health, Wellbeing and Sport; The Economy and Education - the partnership aims to positively impact the region by bringing experts together to work on shared goals.

This milestone collaboration, spearheaded by the universities’ three Vice-Chancellors is already benefitting local people and the local economy through a number of initiatives.

The three universities have harnessed their collective purchasing power and achieved cost savings by working together to implement the Social Value Portal (SVP).

The SVP is an online tool that helps organisations look beyond the financial cost of a contract and consider how the services they buy can improve the economic, social, and environmental wellbeing of the area.

The universities are also working towards aligning procurement processes to benefit local SMEs interested in supplying to them. 

The UP also delivered one of five East Midlands Race to Zero Accelerator Programmes. The programme which is designed to support local small and medium-sized enterprises to create carbon reduction plans generated a wealth of knowledge for local organisations, as well as a number of resources, including reporting guides, training materials and templates. 

These materials have now been made available online as part of the UP’s ongoing commitment to support local organisations to reduce their environmental impact.  

One of the highlights from the year was the UP international event that took place in October.  International partners from across the world gathered in Leicester to hear first-hand from regional leaders and civic dignitaries about why the county is one of the most attractive destinations for international students in the country.

The week-long programme of activity showcased what Leicestershire has to offer international students and demonstrated a unified welcoming voice from the area.

Another significant project from the partnership is the Graduate City project which focuses on retaining graduates in the region in order to support economic growth and increase productivity.   The careers teams from each university have been working closely with the local authority partners to enable local small and medium-sized businesses and voluntary sector organisations to benefit from funded student and graduate placements. 

This project will continue in 2024 and will grow to connect more businesses in Leicestershire with university talent.

Creating educational skills and opportunities that enable local people from all backgrounds to flourish is the main objective of the Education theme and the Pathways team have made great strides on this front this year.

The Pathways team, which is a collaboration between the three Universities and two Further Education Colleges (Leicester and Loughborough) have been busy working with schools and their pupils across Leicestershire to provide help and resources for students, teachers, parents and carers to find out more about higher education and future careers.

Over the last year they have worked with thousands of pupils in schools across the area to offer them a taste of what university is like and help them develop the skills they need to reach their potential and progress to higher education.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Leicester said: “The power of partnership working must never be underestimated.  By combining our diverse expertise we are able to tackle the challenges we face together, and to provide an even greater positive impact on our region.  The partnership has achieved a great deal in its first year and I am excited to see it develop further in the year ahead.”

Professor Katie Normington, Vice-Chancellor of DMU said: “As a partnership, we can use each university’s respective strengths and present very compelling funding bids. This has already allowed us to start some ambitious work to support the local economy, create better opportunities for education and employment and it will be exciting to see this work grow.”

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Chancellor of Loughborough University said: “The UP is already demonstrating what can be achieved when organisations from the region work together, sharing their strengths to have a much greater impact on their communities. I look forward to seeing the partnership continuing to expand and flourish.”

The partnerships priorities for the year ahead will be the development of new projects that respond to the feedback from stakeholders on local needs.