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Universities plan to lead post-lockdown recovery

University leaders have unveiled a plan, which would allow higher education to spearhead the UK’s post-Covid recovery and boost economic growth in the West Midlands.

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A consortium known as University Alliance, has released a list of key policy proposals, which it believes could play a play a key role in empowering universities to lead the nation’s economic, social and cultural recovery.

The 12-strong group, which includes Birmingham City University, has called for the Government to increase provision for degree apprenticeships, boost access to key teaching and healthcare training programmes, and raise investment into research and development.

Key proposals which have been shared under the title Powering the UK’s Future include ensuring regulation does not hinder innovation and disincentive flexible modes of study, making higher technical provision more accessible and transparent and improving awareness of degree apprenticeships and making them more flexible.

The Alliance’s 12 universities train almost a quarter of the nation’s nurses, support almost 24,000 businesses with consultancy, facilities and research, and have been awarded more than £68m to spend on regenerating their local communities, alongside their own significant investments.

Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “Universities are uniquely equipped to help the nation tackle some of the major challenges brought about by the pandemic, and this plan sets out exactly how they can be at the heart of our recovery.

“Research, partnerships with industry and training the next generation of workers are all key parts of a university’s role, and in the current economic climate these functions are more important than ever.

“The last 12 months have brought challenges none of us could have anticipated, but the collaboration, innovation and training that higher education institutions promote and participate in can be a real catalyst for growth. And nowhere is the truer than here in the West Midlands one of the UK’s start-up hotspots.”

University Alliance is already working to find new treatments to tackle obesity, creating new training routes for police officers, supporting small and medium-sized businesses to develop new technologies, developing green innovations, redesigning a struggling high street, and working with TV companies to produce new programmes.

Projects include Birmingham City University’s STEAMhouse, which brings together artists, academics and industry to collaborate on new projects and could help support the region’s growth and create jobs.

STEAMhouse has supported more than 600 businesses, launched a new incubation centre for business collaboration, and is currently investing £70m in the regeneration of a historic Birmingham building to host a new innovation campus.

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