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How our universities are creating a true powerhouse of the North


VC Prof Andy Long of Northumbria University

If you looked in my calendar, you would quickly notice that November 17 is clearly highlighted in bright yellow. Marking a date so boldly is not something I have done often in my career, but as I embark on my first months as Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University, a date of such importance cannot be ignored.

November 17 is the day we find out if Northumbria has won the Times Higher Education University of the Year Award 2022. Being shortlisted for this prestigious award is in itself a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a milestone in the university’s history. and the work of my several remarkable colleagues. But I won’t deny it, winning would be the proverbial icing on the cake!

Northumbria has become a disruptor in the higher education space, transforming itself to become the UK’s first modern research-intensive university. The strategy, which began in 2008, placed quality research at the center of everything, along with a clear social mobility mission and alignment with business and the demands of the regional and local economy. This extraordinary transition has taken fierce dedication, and I’m thrilled to lead Northumbria on the next leg of our journey.

The ambition of the university is to give all students with potential and ability the opportunity to benefit from an education in Northumbria. This shortlist of awards emphasizes that the education we give to students is enriched by research.

But what many won’t know is that 40% of Northumbria’s undergraduates come from traditionally low-attendance backgrounds. Along with all students, they learn from researchers and scholars, participate in research, and co-create knowledge.

While I would happily shout Northumbria’s success from the rooftops, it is not just our institution that deserves recognition. For the first time, two universities in the same city outside of London have been shortlisted. Our friends across the road, Newcastle University, have also been nominated. This firmly cements Newcastle as a Nordic powerhouse in world-class research and education.

This is a significant and remarkable achievement that sends a powerful message about the positive impact we are making together. And that, I believe, is something the North East should celebrate.

When you combine the capabilities of the universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham, the North East is now the largest research center outside of London. This, of course, has many wider benefits, helping Newcastle and the region to compete on a level playing field with other regions. A research center of this type can attract investment previously restricted to more traditional or wealthier parts of the country.

So this award is not just for Northumbria. It’s all over the Northeast. This speaks to the true value Northumbria brings to the region: from high-potential local students who now have the choice of another great university on their doorstep, to regional businesses who can benefit from increased access to impactful research and to innovative partnership opportunities.

With 55% of our students coming from the region and 63% of our graduates staying in the region for employment, we are also helping to create the conditions to overcome a historic challenge to increased growth and productivity: the loss of talent. regional labor markets due to a lack of local jobs.

Together we are shaking up hundreds of years of academic status quo, and Northumbria is becoming an example of what a modern university can offer.

Of course, I hope we bring the trophy home on the 17th – it would be a real highlight of my first months as Vice-Chancellor of this exciting university, but it would also bring the recognition that my incredible colleagues deserve. so much. But victory or no, it proves that Northumbria is definitely on the map, and I’m ready for the rest of the journey.