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Lord Rootes chaired the Promotion Committee that led to the foundation of a new university for Coventry and Warwickshire, a university with a particular vision for the forging of academic links with business and industry across the Midlands.

The University of Warwick was created on a 400 acre farmland site spanning both Coventry and Warwickshire and admitted its first undergraduates in 1965. Lord Rootes, the well-known Coventry industrialist, was intended to be the University’s first Chancellor but died in 1964 before he was installed. However, his vision and legacy are clear.

Five decades on, the University of Warwick has become the most highly ranked university in the Midlands, one of the most distinctive voices within British higher education and, increasingly, a force to be reckoned with on the global stage. The University’s impact on its home region is substantial. In 2011/12 an independent study estimated that the University contributed £520 million annually to the West Midlands region (£251 million of which was in Coventry and Warwickshire) and supported 15,500 jobs across the region. The University’s latest strategy states the goal of doubling Warwick’s economic contribution to the region to £1 billion within the next ten years.

Now, as the University marks its fiftieth anniversary, a Warwick Commission, to be chaired by current Chancellor Sir Richard Lambert, will consider the future role of the University of Warwick in Coventry, Warwickshire and the wider region. Sir Richard Lambert will lead a panel to formulate recommendations that will ensure the University’s considerable links in the Midlands remain strong and continue to build on the original vision of five decades ago.
The Commission will create a longer-term vision for Warwick and its place in the region. It will bring together the views and ideas of regional stakeholders including local government, the LEP, business interests and the community, as well as incorporating academic input, to look at the future in terms of issues such as:

  1. Economic impact - including inward investment and the area's profile and reputation nationally
  2. Innovation
  3. Education & training - particularly educational attainment
  4. Culture & community - including social impact, sustainable growth and health and wellbeing
  5. Physical - enabling infrastructure (rails, roads, technology etc.) - to deliver these benefits
  6. Global connections - the area's profile and reputation globally
  7. Other - any other dimensions important to the area, its leaders and communities

The University of Warwick’s “region” can be articulated in different ways and it will be important for the Commission to reflect on the following areas and raise issues and recommendations which strengthen the University’s presence in each:

  • Communities immediately adjacent to the University campus where there is most obvious benefit from the University’s success. The Commission may also encourage the three districts (Coventry, Warwick and Solihull) to look beyond their geographical responsibilities and work together across political boundaries, effectively defining a new area of focus with Warwick campus at its heart.
  • The wider region and the role the University should play in stimulating economic growth across the Midlands, collaborating with other universities to provide scalable centres of excellence and expertise of national and international significance.
  • Nationally, recognising that the relationship between universities and their regions is undergoing significant change, Warwick could position itself as a role model in regional engagement.

Given the University’s current plans to develop a new physical presence in California, the Commission could collect evidence of best practice to inform models of community and regional engagement in support of a new Warwick campus overseas.