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David Marlow: Introducing the Chancellor's Commission....

david_marlow.jpgWelcome to the University of Warwick (UoW) Chancellor's Commission on the future impact of the University on Coventry, Warwickshire and the Midlands, Over the next six months, I shall be working with my colleague Commissioners to enable the University and our many partners to define a longer term vision for UoW and our place in the region.

This blog invites you to be a contributor to this timely and important exercise.

Self-evidently an institution which has grown as rapidly as UoW already has a significant impact on Coventry, Warwickshire and the wider Midlands - much of it positive. The SQW economic impact study available on this web site provides a quantitative baseline. The more recent Michael Shattock book 'The Impact of a University on its Environment: The University of Warwick and its Community after Fifty Years’ is a fuller narrative of this extraordinary journey.

The Commission, though, is tasked with facilitating a discussion and producing recommendations that will take this story forward for the remainder of the decade and beyond. The involvement of partners in framing this new narrative is essential. This introductory blog suggests some of the issues on which the Commission is seeking views and discussion, and some of the ways you can feed into our work.

There has been a considerable body of literature over several decades on universities as 'anchor institutions' in place-shaping and place leadership. Anchor institutions are large, strategically important, spatially (relatively) immobile bodies, most often with some degree of social purpose(s). This work has been accompanied by elaboration of models of 'civic universities' that embody the anchor institution role in their mission and ways of working.

The genesis of UoW in the 1960s has considerable resonance with these perspectives, and UoW discharges key anchor institution roles locally and regionally. We have a major physical footprint; are one of the largest employers and generators of expenditure in Coventry and Warwickshire; and a major driver of the skills, education, economic, social and cultural outcomes achieved by the area.

The role of universities in place shaping is increasingly important in local growth and public services reform policy. It is a clear feature in the ongoing national comprehensive spending review, and government's expectations of universities over 2015-20 and beyond. Hence the timeliness and importance of the Commission exercise.

As a Commission, we need to look at what UoW is already doing, and identify across this large, rich portfolio of activity that which is at the forefront of 'good practice', working well, and on which we can build. We may identify areas of omission or existing activities that could be delivered to greater effect/impact. We will also seek to understand the opportunities and challenges facing Coventry, Warwickshire and the region, how UoW can play into these agendas, and the expectations of partners as to our roles and contributions.

However, for this descriptive and analytic process to be a driver of UoW's vision and strategic priorities for our second fifty years, we need local and regional partners to articulate the issues you want the university to address; the contributions you think we can make. Both UoW and our partners need to be willing and able to discuss and reach agreement on the way forward.

The commission has established this web site, with strong interactive, deliberative mechanisms as one channel for that exchange on our long term vision and strategic priorities. We hope you will be part of this online community. We intend the site to host relevant background material, keep an updated diary of events and activity of the commission's work, post blogs and other pieces to stimulate discussion and debate. Please participate in this online community, and let us know if you want us to post and signpost your specific contributions.

Over the summer and autumn, the commission will also be convening a number of evidence hearings and discussion panels focusing on local communities and neighbourhoods, Coventry, Warwickshire and wider regional issues pertinent to this exercise. Commissioners and our executive team are available to attend relevant events and meetings to discuss our work. We will assemble a Junior Commission as one way for young people to shape our work. Of course, the UoW academic and student communities will also be ongoing participants in the process.

The Commission's challenge is to produce, by the end of the year, a suite of recommendations that can be a major driver of UoW ambitions over our second fifty years; and which are embraced, welcomed and indeed supported by the city and communities of Coventry, Warwickshire and the wider Midlands.

We hope you will be as excited by this challenge as we are, and that you will be motivated to contribute to and participate in meeting it. Together we shall deliver a successful outcome to the Chancellor's Commission.

David Marlow, Executive Commissioner
July 2015