A LEADING businessman on Wearside has thrown his weight behind the drive to get more young people from Sunderland into university.
Paul Callaghan, chairman of One North East and chairman of the board of Sunderland University, has said that he thinks education is the key to getting a better society.
He also said it was important that more was done to increase the number of people going to university from the North East.
This comes at the same time as the Echo has launched its new Degrees of Success campaign, which aims to help increase the number of graduates on Wearside.
Other high-profile names who have backed the campaign include Sunderland University Chancellor Steve Cram and Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Mr Callaghan said: “In my opinion when you are trying to improve society there is no silver bullet – but the closest thing to a silver bullet is education.
“Educating our young people is the best chance we have in creating a better society.
“When I went to university only five per cent of people did so – now in Sunderland that figure is about 22 per cent.
“But sadly, the North East has the lowest percentage of people going to university out of the whole country, but that definitely does not mean that are kids are less intelligent.
“Sadly, I think the North East has suffered from what some would call a brain drain as people living here have either left to go to university or after studying here leave to look for work.
“We need to retain the brightest and the best to build the future, provide them with a good education and then make sure we can give them a job.
“We also need to give them encouragement and provide an environment which will mean they want to do their best and make the best of their talents.”
Mr Callaghan also believes the university will play a big role in attracting more money and investment into the city.
“In Sunderland the university is very key for the economic development as we have the chance to create an enterprising university city,” he said.
“The importance of the university to Sunderland is huge, as 45 per cent of all people who go to university from Sunderland go to Sunderland University.”
The Degrees of Success campaign aims to give young people the opportunity to fulfil their career ambitions, increase their earnings potential and ultimately enjoy a truly life-changing experience.
This will then hopefully make a real difference to the city – making it more knowledgeable, cultural, diverse and stronger economically.