Report cites UWE Bristol as 'progressive' in driving economic growth in the West

Issue date: 17 October 2014

Meet the employers fair at UWE

A national report by the City Growth Commission has cited the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) as 'pioneering progressive practices' in driving economic growth by encouraging entrepreneurialism amongst students and through the way it works with employers to embed job ready skills into the curriculum and through internship opportunities.

UniverCities: The Knowledge to power UK metros is the result of a 12 month enquiry, chaired by the former Chairman of Goldman Sachs, Jim O'Neil.

The report highlights how universities are central to 'innovation ecosystems' by helping to foster growth through innovation via research partnerships, technology transfer, spin off companies and the entrepreneurial pursuits of students but that focused financial support is needed to support this work.

UWE is cited in the report for consistently winning awards that recognise innovative work on employability and boosting skills through links with local employers. Earlier this year UWE Careers Service was named best in the UK and the University is currently in the top seven in the UK for Employability. The university was also mentioned in the report for the support and flexibility to help with students pursuing enterprise and self-employment. The University has generated 241 businesses amongst students at graduation for 2013/14.

The university recently won a third year of funding from Unltd and HEFCE, in a joint bid to look at scaling and supporting social entrepreneurs. This is an ambitious project called 'GoodLab' and will look at social enterprise in the city, the impact of research communities, and will develop an online resource platform.

Over the last three years, the university has also offered eight week 'internships', where students are given £1,000, desk space and support to try out an idea.

Last year UWE Bristol pioneered a new course called Team Entrepreneurship where students set up real businesses in teams that have to show a profit by the time they graduate. They earn the degree through practice and develop skills from actually running a business with each team member being given the chance to practice on all aspects of the business as it evolves from marketing and product design through to developing a business plan and sales.

The University also recently won funding with the local enterprise partnership for an Enterprise Zone that will provide a business 'hatchery', incubation and grow on space for businesses specialising in robotics, biosciences, biomedicine and other high tech areas.

Another initiative is Graduate Talent West, the only example in the country of local HEI's partnering with their LEP/Chamber of Commerce in a jobs portal for graduates.

UWE Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steve West, who has recently been appointed as Chair for the CBI in the South West, says, “The findings and recommendations in the report align perfectly with the strategic ambitions at UWE Bristol to be the/a leading university for employability and enterprise in the UK. The report mentions a recent CBI finding about how businesses believe that it is more important for a university to be 'agile and around the corner' than 'best in class but inaccessible'. This is true for UWE Bristol in the way we nurture our relationships with businesses and aim to be responsive to what it is they need from graduates and from our research activities.

“We are already doing brilliant work as is clearly demonstrated in the national recognition for our careers service this year, but as the report highlights we need better financial support to do this well. I fully back the recommendations for a Metro Investment Fund for Higher Education this will help us as we continue to develop relationships with SME's and larger businesses.”

Maggie Westgarth, Head of Employability and Enterprise, said “One example of our work is the range of ambitious internship schemes that are a benchmark for our activities particularly with SME's in our metro region. This summer we organised a green intern scheme that chimed well with the business community during the build-up of activities of Bristol as European Green City 2015.

For an example of how a green intern helped at a local hotel recently see here.

Mhairi Threlfall, Student Enterprise advisor at UWE said, “UWE Enterprise has for a number of years worked with faculties to develop a program of curricular and extracurricular activity designed to produce innovative and intuitive graduates, who are prepared to either set up their own businesses or become change-makers within large organisations.”

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