The vital role universities play creating local and national prosperity

Universities have a key part to play in the government’s levelling up agenda, which aims to spread opportunity and prosperity to all parts of the country. Higher Education is vital to the UK’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. Universities are uniquely positioned to supply the high-level skills needed in professional employment through their core and flexible provision.

Higher Education is vital to the UK’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. Universities are uniquely positioned to supply the high-level skills needed in professional employment through their core and flexible provision.

This critical role is recognised by the Office for Students in their ‘Consultation on Our Strategy for 2022-25’. Amongst a number of goals, the proposals set out the responsibilities universities have to ensure their courses are giving students the skills they need to prepare them for employment:

“Our fourth goal is that ‘Graduates contribute to local and national prosperity, and the government’s levelling up agenda’… It is our view that part of what signifies quality in higher education is that graduates can contribute to local and national economic prosperity by securing successful outcomes, which enable them to progress into employment and/or further study.”

The document goes on to pledge that programmes will be assessed, in part, on how well they are aligned to the skills that are needed to ensure economic recovery and prosperity:

“We will work with others across government to design, deliver and evaluate programmes to address current and anticipated skills shortages for business and public services locally and nationally.”

The emphasis in these statements on local prosperity should not be overlooked.

The national economy is essentially an aggregation of a number of local and regional economies, each of which has its own unique mix of industries, occupations and skills. If recovery and prosperity are to be spread to all parts of the country, as the levelling up agenda envisages, different regions will therefore require different solutions to the skills challenges they face, something that was noted in Universities UK’s Framework for Programme Reviews:

Institutions will need to consider whether to adjust for changes in the wider economy and labour market. Sensitivity to varying employment opportunities by region may also need to be considered, including normalising for local labour markets.”

Universities are therefore being challenged with helping to drive transformation and change in their respective regions, but this does raise a fundamental question: how can an institution adjust for changes in its regional labour market and be sensitive to varying employment opportunities unless they first understand what those changes and opportunities actually are?

The solution to this question lies in universities having insight into the occupation and skills demands of industries and businesses in the region they serve, which itself necessitates having access to employer demand and skills data at their localised level. By which we mean data that can help a university answer the following kinds of questions:

  • What does the occupational mix look like in our area?
  • Which occupations are growing the fastest?
  • Which specialised skills are most in-demand in the region?
  • Who are the employers that are seeking these positions and skills?

These questions cannot be answered fully by Graduate Outcomes Survey data. GOS provides an excellent description of high-skilled labour supply into the labour market. However, to answer these questions, external data that describes labour market demand is key.

To demonstrate how external labour market data can provide answers to these questions, Emsi Burning Glass have put together a series of short reports for each of the 12 Government Office Regions – ‘A Brief Analysis of the Graduate Labour Market in Your Region‘ – which include insights on general occupation trends, job openings, and a focus on demand for a specialised skill: Data Science.

In addition, Emsi Burning Glass will also be hosting a webinar on Friday 18th February – ‘Assessing the Graduate Labour Market in your Region’ – where they will be going into more detail about how universities can use granular employment data to understand regional skills needs, and ultimately feed this into course planning to ensure better alignment to the labour market.

If universities are to really play that vital role in economic recovery, including levelling up, understanding the skills needs of industries and businesses in its region will be key, which means that local and regional data and insights are essential.

You can request a copy of the report for your area and register for the webinar by clicking the buttons below. Alternatively, contact for more details.

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