Universities at the heart of economic growth


The role of universities as catalysts of economic growth and as anchors in their region has been called out loud and proud in the Witty Review.  And about time too I say – and especially pleasing for those of us who have been at the forefront of championing this vital positioning.

The Witty Review details how universities have ‘extraordinary’ potential to enhance economic growth, creating jobs and more – with the potential to seed whole new industries.  The report powerfully demonstrates the impact and influence universities can have on the economy, and its recommendations, if enacted, could be a game changer for the UK.

The recommendations focus on positioning economic development as the ‘third mission’ for universities, alongside teaching and research.  For me, delivering the enterprise mission by drawing on our teaching and research strengths is the way to go.  And, as the report points out, these activities reinforce each other and shouldn’t be regarded as alternatives.  So let’s not make the mistake of seeing it as ‘either/or’ – let’s think about this third mission as ‘both/and’, running within and alongside excellent teaching and world-class research.

The report also debunks the myth that economic growth is geographical and argues that funding should be allocated by opportunity rather than simply by postcode. Local Enterprise Partnerships and their universities would then team up with one another in novel ways that align their distinctiveness with opportunity, so in this way, we leverage the natural assets of ‘place’ and join the dots at the national level in a seamless growth agenda.

Read the full blog here

Wendy Purcell is the Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth University. 

Further reading