Accessible, Applied, Agile: How business gets done at The University of Gloucestershire
Jul 1 | 7 minutes read
March is a special month for the folk of Cheltenham, a historic spa town in Gloucestershire, England.
It’s when the iconic “Cheltenham roar” is heard, that perfectly synchronised crowd cheer lifting off packed grandstands at Prestbury Park to signify the opening of the renowned annual Cheltenham Festival. A pinnacle event in the National Hunt horse racing calendar, the festival brings together 260,000 enthusiasts from across the country for four days of jump-racing fun.
It’s the tourism event of the year for Gloucestershire county and a great driver for the local economy. Visitors from the UK, Ireland and around the world will squeeze into local watering holes and eateries whilst spare rooms everywhere are snapped up weeks ahead of race kickoff and taxi drivers are at their busiest, ferrying festival-goers to and from the venue.
There was never any question of the festival’s role in driving the Gloucestershire economy. But up until just a few years ago, authorities did not know the actual size of its contribution.
Working closely with the Jockey Club and Cheltenham Racecourse, staff at the university’s Centre for Contemporary Accounting Research (CenCAR) looked at the spending patterns of festival-goers at the event’s 2015 instalment. From 4,356 responses collected via an online survey, they were able to see which festival days and activities the participants attended, and what, as well as where, they spent their money on.
Just before the 2016 races, CenCAR released their findings in an Economic Impact Analysis report, confirming that the four-day festival contributes more than GBP100 million to the local economy. They also revealed the activities most popular among attendees and that earned the most revenue.
The research ultimately went into helping Cheltenham Racecourse plan better iterations of the festival. From the findings, they were able to tailor their activities to meet their customers’ requirements and preferences. Smaller business vendors operating in the periphery were able to feed back into the supply chain by offering festival goers an even better experience.
A newer, flexible university
The Cheltenham Racecourse study is just one of the myriad ways in which The University of Gloucestershire engages with business and industry to build value for Gloucestershire county and beyond.
A small public research institution in South West England, the university has turned itself into a model for collaboration in recent years, working with thousands of SMEs and large enterprises in the region to stimulate economic activity and growth. It’s exactly the sort of approach the UK government envisioned and encouraged for in its modern Industrial Strategy for Britain.
Private sector companies across the country have been urged to knock on university doors to seek out partnerships that accelerate growth, increase sector productivity and generate jobs for the local community. But establishing and managing such partnerships can be a finicky process, which is why resource-starved SMEs tend to shy away from them.
This is not the case at The University of Gloucestershire, which has simplified and streamlined the engagement process to make it less daunting for companies to approach them.
“We have a genuine willingness to collaborate and engage with business… so we’re seen as being a very supportive university,” Dr Polly Pick, The University of Gloucestershire’s Director of Business Engagement and Partnership, tells U2B.
“We don’t have a huge reputation to go on nationally, but we’re very well known locally.”
Through initiatives like GRIP, GAINS and Start and Grow Enterprise, the university in various capacities helps organisations innovate and scale, and local student leaders or startup founders breathe life into their entrepreneurial ventures.
Working closely with GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership, one of the most successful of 38 LEPs across England, the institution also provides support for over 3,000 local SMEs through the Growth Hub at its Oxtalls Campus. The Growth Hub, GRIP, GAINS and Start and Grow Enterprise are all EU-funded projects aimed at driving economic growth and job creation throughout the country.
But whilst its local reputation is not one to be trifled with, The University of Gloucestershire is today more than a local area business partner.
Accessible, agile and applied: An unstoppable combination
Best known for its expertise in leadership management and cybersecurity, a critical area of technology in a fast-growing digital world, the institution also works with a number of national and multinational organisations on both public and private sector projects.
Through the GFirst LEP-funded C11 Cyber and Digital Centre, the university delivers courses designed to meet the cybersecurity needs of businesses in the South West. Pick says apart from training local businesses in the field, The University of Gloucestershire also works with the government on other top-secret projects in the area.
“We like to undertake things that are useful and have great impact to wider society,” Pick says. “We’re very focused on people actually gaining the skills and developing skills they need to improve their own opportunities and those of that organisation’s.”
In leadership management, The University of Gloucestershire currently delivers nationally-centred higher and degree apprenticeship programmes to a number of businesses, as well as short and professional courses for business managers or employers looking to upskill their workforce.
Pick says the school works with over 35 national and international organisations across a variety of industries, from the likes of global lifestyle brand Superdry to the National Health Service (NHS) and Serco, a large public services provider in the UK.
One example is the institution’s bespoke Senior Leader Masters’ Degree Apprenticeship (SLMDA) programme for Serco employees. Those who take the two-year course will gain an MBA-level qualification as well as Chartered Manager/Fellow status upon completion.
The delivery of the course is also extremely agile in that the University of Gloucestershire’s instructors would deliver it to wherever it is convenient for Serco’s managers to attend.
“We’re talking about flying faculty,” Pick says. “They do a range of management and leadership modules, and that’s topped off by a final project. And all of the assessments they go through in that programme are applied.”
This means during the course of the programme, managers would get to work on solving actual problems affecting their business. This applied approach suits The University of Gloucestershire’s corporate partners who are looking for real value from their relationship with the university. It is also one of the reasons why businesses love working with the school.
“I think we are very tuned in to business,” Pick says. “We’ve had organisations, large, national and multinational organisations, tell us that we are easy to deal with and that they get a sense that people here want to deal with them.”
Small but powerful
The size of the institution also helps. Unlike larger institutions with more complex administrative structures, approaching The University of Gloucestershire for a partnership is notably easier.
The smaller the institution, the fewer the bureaucratic hoops to jump through, the faster the process of delivering the outcomes the business ultimately needs, according to Pick.
“For a business, if you don’t know where to start, it can be quite difficult. But with our organisation, you’ll get connected to the right person quite quickly – it’s just easier to get in to talk to us.”
The university has a client development team tasked specifically with managing the school’s business and industry partnerships. The team holds face to face meetings with the businesses that approach them to better understand the problems or challenges they need solved and identify ways in which the school could offer its support.
At any given time, Pick says the university manages something like 50 direct partnerships with businesses, each with different levels of engagement. Additionally, the institution also works with thousands of others on employability.
But The University of Gloucestershire is now primed to grow its corporate network. And it is keeping its doors wide open to new business partners, especially those looking to establish deeper, longer-term partnerships.
“That’s the gold standard for us – to work with a partner across a number of different initiatives, and to really dig deep and understand what their business needs and how we can help.”
To find out more about partnership opportunities at The University of Gloucestershire, make an enquiry here, or get in touch with a university representative via email at email@example.com or call +44 (0)1242 715498.