Over 200 business and organisation leaders from across the West Midlands gathered in Birmingham on Friday morning at the fifth anniversary Coventry and Warwickshire Champions meeting, hearing from leaders of key regional organisations, including Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor and President Stuart Croft, on how collaboration across the region is critical to raise its profile.
A keynote speaker along with Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry City Council and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and Nick Blofeld, Divisional Director of Merlin Entertainment (Warwick Castle), Stuart addressed the Champions to describe the University’s impact in the region, both as one of the area’s anchor institutions and as a global player.
Key themes from Stuart’s speech included the role the University can play in supporting the region post-Brexit, identifying that the need for outward-thinking, globally-connected institutions is greater than ever. Recently rated as the 17th most international university in the world by Times Higher Education, Warwick’s global reputation is one of its greatest strengths. Stuart said, “We’re a university anchored in our region, with responsibilities and commitments to the area, but we can also provide a gateway between the region and the world.” It’s this internationalism that will prove crucial to the West Midlands’ success as it works to achieve its ambitious growth plans in the face of a changing political landscape, outside of the EU.
The region’s growth is also dependent on an increased emphasis on skills and social mobility, another area where universities’ expertise and influence is much needed. “A greater connection between higher education (HE), further education and school education is positive. We’re providing this through our WMG Academies for Young Engineers in Coventry and Solihull, and we’re looking more widely at degree apprenticeships,” said Stuart. He also discussed how the Higher Education and Research Bill and the Teaching Excellence Framework posed fundamental challenges to higher education, saying, “HE is one of the West Midlands’ greatest strengths, and our institutions have a collective responsibility to work together to protect the brand of HE in the region.”
Other key regional initiatives, including the development of HS2 and the Government’s industrial strategy, were also raised. Stuart talked about the importance of collaboration by strategic investment in regional developments, and referenced the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) and the £180 million invested by the Government, private sector and Midlands Innovation universities to transform the UK’s energy sector.
The Champions also heard about how Warwick is expanding its horizons, with plans to invest in Warwick Arts Centre, the largest Arts Centre outside of London, and developing presences in London, California and an exciting vision for a new innovation campus in Wellesbourne. Stuart also emphasised the benefits of Warwick’s regional partnerships with other educational institutions, including Coventry University, organisations and businesses. With the support of the latter, the region’s universities will be able to make important contributions in skills, innovation and inward investment, driving the economy of the West Midlands and enabling it to thrive.
Working with the Coventry and Warwickshire Champions is just one of the ways Warwick is engaging with the West Midlands region. To read more about what we’re doing for our region, read the latest Exec Blog from Simon Swain, our Pro-Vice Chancellor for External Engagement: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/execteam/entry/2017_the_year/