Think tank’s fact-finding visit to North West and University of Cumbria

Think tank’s fact-finding visit to North West and University of Cumbria  name

Senior figures from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) have been visiting the University of Cumbria to see how its place-based and employer partnerships are working to address the need for more higher-level skills across the North West.

Demonstrating the power and potential of higher education and skills to the region, University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor Professor Julie Mennell invited HEPI Director Nick Hillman and the think-tank’s Director of Partnerships, Lucy Haire, to join her on a two-day tour.

Starting at the university’s campus in Bowerham Road, Lancaster, the party also visited Barrow, Ambleside and Carlisle on 4 and 5 April 2022.

The University of Cumbria is currently involved in several key projects to drive its mission to increase higher-level skills across the region and beyond, helping to build prosperity for future generations.

They include:

  • Carlisle Citadels Project – a new campus that includes a proposed Carlisle Business Exchange in partnership with Lancaster University Management School as part of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal; 
  • Barrow Learning Quarter – A partnership between the University of Cumbria, Furness College, the Borough Council, BAE Systems, and local businesses, Barrow Learning Quarter (BLQ) offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the education landscape in Barrow;
  • Centre for Digital Transformation – to stimulate digital innovation across the area through the development of digital knowledge, skills and capabilities among graduates, businesses and individuals;
  • Research centres in National Parks and Protected Areas, Health and Society, Paramedic Practice.

Professor Mennell said: “I have been delighted to welcome Nick and Lucy to the university and the region, sharing our examples of partnership work that’s driving our mission to increase higher-level skills in Cumbria and our region.

“We can’t achieve this on our own. It is only by working with business, civic and other partners that will see us equip our students, graduates and communities to thrive and prosper for generations to come. One such example includes our collaborations and partnerships relating to the development of a university campus forming part of the proposed Barrow Learning Quarter.

“The Barrow Learning Quarter aims to help provide inspiration and progression into accessible further and higher study for those living in the area. Despite being a critical national asset for defence, Barrow has low rates of higher education participation.

“The university is working with employers to co-design and deliver programmes in key areas such as supply chain and logistics, advanced manufacturing, project management, business and cyber security, as well as health and social care – all of which are linked to the local economy and its communities.”

Community and employer partners including BAE Systems also met the HEPI pair, discussing the opportunities of the levelling-up agenda.

Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) Nick Hillman said: “Having heard so many positive things about the work of the University of Cumbria, we jumped at the chance to come and see it for ourselves.

“I’ve been blown away by how important the university is to the local economy, to local employers and the opportunities offered to students, and how important it is to the economic life of the whole area.

“When it comes to making sure people have great opportunities and that employers can find the skills they need, nothing beats a local university working in partnership with businesses, colleges and policymakers.

“Initiatives like those in Barrow and Carlisle are truly innovative. I have been particularly impressed by the focus on the jobs and industries of the future, which will help Cumbria compete with other parts of the UK while remaining a great place to live and work. I hope to be back very soon.”

Established 20 years ago, the independent HEPI shapes higher education policy debate through evidence. Further information about the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) can be found at: