Facing the future together: City and University

A blog post from Professor Guy Orpen Deputy Vice-Chancellor, New Campus Development. 

The tides of history seem particularly turbulent at present. As Brexit swirls, cities, their people, businesses and organisations wonder about the way forward, our country faces very uncertain times. It feels more important than ever that we work together to support each other. We need to ensure we offer our young people opportunities to thrive whilst protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

A University like Bristol has much to offer in such times. Most obviously we offer employment (to 7,000 staff) and education (to our 24,000 students) as well as world-leading research.

Our students are more hard-pressed than previous generations; spending upwards of £10,000 a year in local businesses and services as well as high tuition fees. They are facing working lives that are longer and more uncertain than ever before. Despite these pressures, they enliven our city – in its cultural and sporting scene, by volunteering across its communities and bringing their vitality to its heart. And for many they make Bristol their home after they graduate, adding to the vibrant feel of one of the UK’s fastest growing cities – a regional hub for innovation and opportunity.

Our researchers seek understanding of our world today, invent ideas for its future and work with the NHS, industry, and society to understand how best to bring them to action. They launch new enterprises – like Ziylo this year’s $800m start-up company – and attract others to join in the endeavour with us. Often our graduates join these employers to provide them with the skills they need as doctors, engineers, managers, civil servants, teachers and scientists.

Our city needs many such jobs to be created, filled and sustained if we are flourish in a time when cities globally are vying for just these jobs. The scale and pace of competition is frightening – from Barcelona, Bangalore, Boston and Beijing to name just some of the Bs! Competition comes in many areas – aerospace, manufacturing, creative and business to name a few.

We face it too – competition in all we do and from all round the world. Our challenge is to attract and empower the most talented students and staff; to secure the resources to allow them and our educational, civic and research mission to succeed; and to bring value to our city and its people. We cannot do this alone. We need to work ever more closely with our city, its people, businesses and communities.

So, I’d argue that we need to be clear about what’s at play – all our futures. These are times of opportunity as well as challenge, and our city and University have just begun the journey to a closer partnership. There is much more we can do together – to change the face of the city east of Temple Meads and provide better futures for all in our wonderful, diverse, edgy but unequal city.

We will need to be honest with each other about the tensions as we face the future but pulling together we can put Bristol on the world stage, a place that tests futures and finds the best of them.

This post was originally published by the Bristol Post on 17 January 2019.

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