The results from our work on geographic and community ‘fit’ and partnership development were published in June. As the UNICREDS model begins to take shape it is clear that the themes chosen by the project are closely interlinked and will bear updating as the project progresses. Early results show that the ways that universities operate are changing in response to the needs of students and to regional economic drivers.
Innovative partnerships between multiple universities and further education institutions, local government and industry are building a new type of university, based on a common drive to build a competitive knowledge economy. These universities offer flexible, accessible higher education for students, delivered through a blend of class-based and distance learning, supported by local learning centres where students can work alongside their peers – overcoming many of the geographical and social boundaries to education.
Partnership with regional government can help to reduce rural depopulation and regenerate local businesses through the provision of skilled graduates to support essential regional requirements in areas like healthcare and engineering. Courses developed in partnership with local businesses help to ensure employable graduates with the skills that businesses need and relevant continuing professional development for existing staff.
The economic benefits from the vital connection between university research and innovative businesses can be maximised through smart specialisation into research areas that build on the region’s existing assets, supported by strategic policy decisions by local government. These university-industry-government collaborations often grow out of existing partnerships within a region, but the initiative can be with the universities, the regional government or with businesses to start a partnership even in a region where there is currently no university presence.
These are just a taster of some of the work covered so far. The complete reports and good practices identified during Work Packages 1 and 2 are available for download on the project website at www.unicreds.eu/documents.