UCLan boss says universities can help get Britain back on its feet

Preston’s university boss has spelt out ambitious plans to help get the nation back on its feet by making use of its facilities and workforce capabilities.

UCLan vice-chancellor Prof Graham Baldwin
UCLan vice-chancellor Prof Graham Baldwin

The University of Central Lancashire has backed a national campaign calling on the Government to protect and support key public service provision at universities post Covid-19.

The campaign, Strengthening and enhancing UK public services in response to Covid-19 , was launched by Universities UK (UUK) and MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities.

It calls for practical, financial help to encourage graduates and students into key worker industries, including grants and student loan support.

In a letter to the region’s MPs and senior figures in the public sector such as local NHS trusts and police constabularies, UCLan’s vice-chancellor Professor Graham Baldwin says the university could play a key role in an effective post-pandemic solution.

He believes the vision would help recover the region’s vital public services, drive regeneration and support civic leadership.

Prof Baldwin said: “We consider our role in Preston, Lancashire, Cumbria and the wider North West to be one of indispensable responsibility to the communities we serve.

“The UUK/MillionPlus proposal would future-proof the creation of a sustainable and suitably skilled public service workforce, including medics, nurses and other healthcare practitioners, so vital towards the current fight against COVID-19 and the proactive preparations for any future resurgence or new pandemics."

Medical students have already stepped up to help locally and the vice-chancellor added: "Our Medical School in particular is primed to make a substantial contribution towards the future healthcare workforce needs of the North West having received GMC accreditation for our doctors’ programme earlier this year.

“Additionally, our schools of nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and biomedical sciences, social work, care and community all contribute significantly towards civic life and community prosperity across the North West.

"We are therefore uniquely positioned to work in collaboration with our partners in the recovery effort. Indeed, it is our duty to do so.”

The proposals of the campaign are :

Supporting students and graduates to become key workers in public services, by offering a maintenance grant of up to £10,000 for all students in training, removing any recruitment caps, and providing fee-loan forgiveness for those remaining in the relevant professions for at least five years.

Strengthening and enhancing key public service HE capacity in universities by increasing the funding to the Office for Students to reflect the added costs while creating a new Public Services in Higher Education Capital Fund to enable universities to invest in simulation equipment, additional staff costs and other infrastructure.

Retaining and developing key workers in public services, by increasing general staffing budgets and creating a new professional development programme focused on enhancing skills of current key workers in public services and the new NHS volunteer reserve.