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Vice Chancellors and other senior university representatives from six of the region’s largest universities – Aston University, Birmingham City University, Coventry University, University of Birmingham, University of Warwick and University of Wolverhampton – showcased their institutions’ key priority areas and business specialisms to a local, high-profile, corporate audience made up of CEOs, directors and partners.

A key theme of the event was to address how universities will play a significant role in supporting the BPFS industry to make its mark and meet the region’s growth plans. 

The BPFS sector employs more than 320,000 people in the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) area, which is one in five local jobs. The sector is worth some £25 billion to the regional economy, representing 27.5% of GVA. 

The region’s universities offer a broad range of business support services, including R&D, consultancy work, executive education programmes, and the opportunity to design course content. Universities already offer bespoke courses to a number of blue-chip employers including PwC, the Bank of England, Deloitte and Barclays. Working with businesses, they also help tackle some of today’s important issues by providing courses in subjects such as cyber security.

More than 560,000 people have applied to start a UK full-time undergraduate university or college course in 2019, according to UCAS data. This is almost 2,500 more than at the equivalent point last year – and the first increase in three years.

The event was the beginning of a conversation between BPFS and academia to address how they work more collaboratively in the future, ensuring that courses reflect the skills required by businesses, graduate schemes are more accessible to students from all backgrounds, and that graduates’ skills and academic experience meet their expectations.

Key speakers included Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor; Jane Whitlock, Midlands Senior Partner at Deloitte; and Matthew Hammond, WMGC Chair and Midlands Regional Chairman at PwC. Attendees also heard presentations from each university.

Jane Whitlock, Midlands Senior Partner at Deloitte, commented:

“The event covered the numerous ways in which BPFS firms can benefit from engaging with universities.

“There was a strong emphasis on collaboration – particularly between the universities themselves as well as with businesses. The Vice Chancellors’ collective participation in the panel discussion reflected the importance of working together, and we are grateful for their insights.”

An in-depth panel discussion was also held during the event, featuring Professor Helen Higson, Aston University; Professor Philip Plowden, Birmingham City University; Professor John Latham, Coventry University: Professor Sir David Eastwood, University of Birmingham; Professor Stuart Croft, University of Warwick; and Professor Geoff Layer, University of Wolverhampton.

The West Midlands Growth Company is working with the six universities to promote their individual specialisms and demonstrate, through collaborative working, that they have a strong and unique investment offer – contributing to the region’s growth economy.

Matthew Hammond, Chair of the West Midlands Growth Company and Regional Chairman at PwC, said:

“Working together with our universities will help create a more prosperous, creative and innovative West Midlands. Their combined expertise and contribution to the region’s unique identity is particularly important for attracting inward investment and breaking down barriers to growth.”

Those in attendance included the Senior Leadership Forum, a membership of 25 executives from some of the region’s largest Professional Services firms including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, CBRE, RBS, JLL, DLA Piper, KPMG, Wesleyan, Squire Patton Boggs, PwC, Cushman & Wakefield, Pinsent Masons, Gateley, Barclays, EY, GVA and Lloyds Banking Group.