Sunderland youngsters don't need to leave city to 'get on in life' says Uni boss
University of Sunderland Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell feels the institution can play a pivotal role in upskilling future generations to ensure Wearside has a prosperous economy and highly skilled healthcare workforce.
Sir David was speaking to the Echo as the university celebrates its thirtieth anniversary after converting in 1992 from a polytechnic as part of the Further and Higher Education Act.
With the city currently undergoing a programme of economic and digital development, Sir David believes the university is fundamental to ensuring the city is equipped with an appropriately skilled workforce who remain within the city after graduation.
He said: “I’ve always said a strong city needs a strong university and a strong university needs a strong city and this has never been more apparent. There are many developments taking place in Sunderland and we are in lockstep with everything.
"We always analyse what’s taking place to ensure our courses are in tune with the needs of Sunderland as a city. With the city set to become one of the first UK smart cities, we are looking to expand our delivery of computer sciences and with the region still boasting the highest proportion of manufacturing jobs, at around 14 per cent, it’s important we continue to train the next generation of engineers.
"Historically there has been a view that if you want to ‘get on’ then you need to leave the city. Our focus is to say to students this is not the case. You don’t need to leave Sunderland to have a prosperous future and we unashamedly encourage students to stay.”
A key area of change over the last 30 years, which has seen campuses open in London and Hong Kong with student numbers nearly doubling from 12,000 to 23,500, is the development of the university’s healthcare education.
With 35 healthcare related courses accounting for a third of the student population and a recently opened Anatomy Centre, Sir David hopes the university will help establish the city as “a really important regional and national healthcare zone” as well as ensuring well trained GPs, nurses and paramedics who “remain local”.
The university also has plans to “open up spaces for healthcare related businesses”.
A driving force in recent years has been the opening of the School of Medicine which will see the first cohort of doctors graduate in 2024 and has helped propel the university into the top 50 in the Guardian’s most recent Best UK Universities guide.
The university Vice-chancellor said: “Developing a medical school has certainly given the university a different level of esteem, a halo effect which we didn’t have previously. I know it’s a selling point of the Council when looking to attract investment.”
Sir David spoke passionately about where he hopes the university will be in another 30 years, adding: “Along with Nissan, SAFC and the Sunderland Empire, we are an anchored institution in the city and I hope we are still one of the great institutions in years to come and continuing to meet the city’s needs.
"I’d like to think people are no longer singling out Russell Group universities and Sunderland has become one of the great universities of the UK.”