University Centre Shrewsbury - focusing on business from the beginning

University Centre Shrewsbury - focusing on business from the beginning

Chester-SoR-IntroBeing at the inception of a new university, the partners behind University Centre Shrewsbury have had a rare opportunity to place a focus on business and the ways in which entrepreneurship can be a catalyst for economic growth from the start.

In one of the few partnerships of its kind, the University of Chester and Shropshire Council have established the institution in one of the Higher Education ‘cold spots’ identified by the Government in 2014, with the aim of it becoming an independent university within the next 10 years.

Innovation and enterprise are set firmly in the foundations of its curriculum, teaching, extra-curricular programmes and leadership.

Research undertaken prior to the creation of University Centre Shrewsbury showed there was demand from business and industry to support research linked to key commercial and industrial sectors, and societal challenges, while they identified skills gaps as something which held them back from achieving greater growth.

This input continued to the next stages in its progression, as the curriculum was developed in collaboration with local businesses, and industry specialists are among those teaching students. Postgraduates started courses in autumn 2014 and undergraduates were welcomed to the institution from autumn 2015.

The courses and wider opportunities on offer at University Centre Shrewsbury have been designed to offer a range of practice-based experiences, alongside academic rigour, and in turn support students to become extremely employable, entrepreneurial graduates.

Instead of following a traditional structure, learning and research is aligned to local, regional and national needs to ensure it has as much of a positive educational, social, cultural and economic impact as possible.

All undergraduates are also able to take part in the pioneering S:PEAR (Professional, Entrepreneurial, Academic and Research Skills) programme. The initiative brings students together across all courses to help to give them the skills they need for the workplace and work on projects which make a difference.

Student Holly-Elizabeth Smith said: “With speakers from the University of Chester and from local companies, and with topics ranging from work shadowing to how to write a good CV, this promises to be a useful addition to our overall personal development during our time at University Centre Shrewsbury and beyond.”

A S:PEAR project in early 2016 involved students pitching ideas for the transformation of the large central courtyard at Guildhall, the main learning and research centre. Their proposals included stakeholder analysis, consultation with local businesses as well as ball-park figures for each stage of the project. The winning team will see their ideas come to life throughout the academic year.

The S:PEAR programme also supports students in volunteering with local organisations and at events, in addition to the opportunities available through their courses and tutors.

Overseeing the strategic direction of University Centre Shrewsbury is an Advisory Board which includes prominent business leaders from across Shropshire, and is chaired by Sir David Lees DL, ex-Chairman of the Court of the Bank of England.

Sir David said: “Involvement in the evolution of University Centre Shrewsbury, which is a significant step towards the development of a fully-fledged University for Shrewsbury, has been particularly stimulating for someone who has spent most of his life in the world of business. I believe this is a most exciting initiative which will add value in different ways to the town and county.

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