Northumbria University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Francis, and Professor Steven Kyffin, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Business and Enterprise, speak to Contact about Northumbria University’s ambition to take on tomorrow through partnership working

North East England Chamber of Commerce’s ambition for a Stronger North East, of a place that is connected and competitive, aligns to Northumbria’s ambitious University Strategy 2018-23. Northumbria is passionate about ensuring academic excellence creates the maximum impact on economic growth and social prosperity regionally, nationally and internationally.

Globalisation and the rise of the digital economy continues to redefine our society. Northumbria University recognises the changing, on-demand environment and that education is moving to increased online and blended delivery and there is a need for more affordable, applied, relevant and experiential learning than ever before.

Professor Peter Francis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, identifies that universities need to be proactive in responding to the increasingly competitive, digital and global landscape and talks about how Northumbria University is advocating partnership working with industry to ensure a demand lead approach.

“Our Strategy has partnership working at its core. Northumbria University is evolving into a community of academic excellence, of high quality research underpinning everything we do, enabling cutting edge relevant education to be delivered not just to our on-campus students, but
to learners at a distance in work, at home and overseas by developing partnerships with businesses, social enterprises and public sector organisations. In this way, we are embracing the mechanisms and dynamics of multi-directional knowledge exchange.

This approach has informed the development and delivery of our Degree Apprenticeships. All programmes are designed in consultation with employers with flexible delivery models aligned to the needs of the employer and the learner. Some are open courses, designed for a particular sector or industry and which include students from a variety of different organisations within that sector. Other programmes are developed for a specific individual employer to educate their employees, in which case we work closely with the organisation to co- create the programme content. We have provided this type of programme for organisations such as Virgin Money, Vertu and most recently Northumbria Police.”

Funded through the Apprenticeship Levy, Northumbria University has started to jointly deliver the new Police Constable Degree Apprenticeships (PCDA) – which aims to best equip officers for a life in policing. The University’s world-class experts in crime, forensics, business and law are working in partnership with Northumbria Police to equip new officers with the skills and knowledge they need to help prevent and respond to the changing face of crime.

Professor Peter Francis (pictured), also an internationally-renowned criminologist takes up the story: “We are proud to partner with Northumbria Police to deliver the innovative PCDAs. Both organisations have a successful history of partnership, and this development, confirms both organisations’ strategic intent to work together to co-deliver excellence in research, rich learning and professional development.

As our work with the police evidences, much of the success of Northumbria’s Degree Apprenticeships is down to partnership working, with our team of world renowned academics working closely with employers, like the police, alongside professional bodies, applying their knowledge to find solutions to meet the needs and demands of business. Despite the Degree Apprenticeship process being a demanding landscape to navigate for employers, Northumbria University has a proven track record of success in supporting a range of small, medium and large businesses in meeting their organisational needs. We are an enabling and learning organisation and acting often as a catalyst for innovation in learning and business development.”

Whilst Northumbria University puts the learner first, of equal importance is the civic duty the University performs in driving regional development. By correlating curriculum and innovation activities with the goals of businesses, Northumbria University equip the future workforce with relevant skills to meet the challenges of tomorrow and drive a collaborative and ‘open’ innovation ecosystem through a range of knowledge exchange activities. Supported by UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), which will invest £4.7 billion in collaborative Research and Development over the next four years, Northumbria University is organically growing core areas of research excellence in their Multi-disciplined research areas such as Health and Digital. World class, relevant research that informs world class, relevant teaching.

An approach exemplified by how Northumbria collaborates with regional industry is through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP). Professor Steven Kyffin, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Business and Enterprise explains “By working with a talented graduate, guided by leading Northumbria University specialists, organisations can introduce new ideas, knowledge and approaches efficiently and effectively. Businesses who participate in a KTP consistently report wide-ranging benefits including improved business performance, competitive advantage, increased productivity and access to new markets, including export. A recent successful KTP with Parker Hannifin resulted in Parker estimating that the impact of the KTP will be a boost to annual pre-tax profits by £1.5 million within 3 years. The graduates were also employed on a permanent basis at Parker Hannifin in the North East, a great example of retaining talent in the region.”

The continued redefining of boundaries between academia and business has had profound impact on the teaching and career paths of students today with many graduates involved in a myriad of activities beyond what university courses have historically provided. The more common vertical dual-career paths have evolved into multiple-careers routes that demand blended technical and management skills – simply put, critical thinking and an ability to tweet now go hand in hand.

Northumbria University prepares its graduates for this demanding career by building entrepreneurial skills into a wide range of its programmes as well as supporting those students and graduates who have the creativity and drive to start up their own businesses. In the latest Higher Education Business and Communities Interaction Survey (HEBCIS) Northumbria was ranked the UK’s top university for graduate start-ups by turnover.

In an exciting step forward for the University and the wider region, Northumbria University has created an Incubator for these businesses with a view of driving further entrepreneurship across the region and building on these sustained success’. Professor Steven Kyffin said: “We are extremely proud of our entrepreneurial students and graduates and the significant contribution their businesses are making to economic growth in the creation of jobs in the region. Their success is down to remarkable creativity, drive and innovation, but it also reflects the focus we have as a university on entrepreneurship both in Education and Research and the support we offer our start- ups through the Student and Graduate Enterprise Service. Our new Incubator will take this to the next level as a purpose-built workspace with hi-tech connectivity, access to a range of business support and mentoring services and a central location close to all transport links. Our aim is for the hub to offer the perfect environment to help the next generation of student and graduate entrepreneurs. Our future ambitions include creating a shared vision and facility for accelerator and scale-ups in partnership with key stakeholders across the city.”

For more information about how Northumbria University can work with your organisation, visit