With the £100m redevelopment of the city’s riverside area underway, and work having commenced on the installation of 5G technology to make Sunderland the UK’s “leading smart city”, Sir David Bell believes the University has a crucial role in providing a suitably skilled workforce to maximise the city’s potential and attract further investment.
The University of Sunderland Vice-Chancellor said: “Every strong university needs a strong city and every strong city needs a strong university. I want this university to be integral to the success of Sunderland and I’m incredibly optimistic it will be.”
Fundamental to the future prosperity of the city is not only being able to attract high calibre students but also being able to retain them in the region once they complete their studies.
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Sir David added: “The more the city prospers the easier it is to attract new students and I unashamedly admit we encourage them to stay in the region once they complete their studies.
"I want this university to be known as a place people can go to improve their life chances and many of our courses are career focused such as teaching, engineering and healthcare which will hopefully lead to people gaining employment in the area.
"Historically, people may not have had the right opportunities and may have went away elsewhere to study, but I believe we are seeing a shift in culture. We very much hope that people who train in the area, stay in the area.
"I want this city to succeed and believe this is crucial to its success.”
With 35 per cent of courses linked to healthcare, including the recently opened School of Medicine where students can train to be doctors, Sir David believes the university has a pivotal role to play in supporting the NHS and establishing Sunderland as one of the “leading healthcare zones” in the country.
He said: “We’ve 250 medical students training to be doctors and our first cohort is due to graduate in 2024. I know many of these students wish to stay local and contribute to the future success of the area’s Health Service.
"Healthcare is such a significant part of our university. We train nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists which feeds into the strengths of the city’s wonderful hospital and the development of the new Eye Infirmary.
In March the university is set to open its new multi-million pound Cadaveric Centre where medical students can experience working with real bodies which, following an individual’s passing, have been donated for medical science.
It will be “one of only a handful” of universities to offer this facility.
Sir David said: “This is a really important development and could in time also become a centre for surgical training. Together, all these developments will provide great services for the people of Sunderland and help establish the city a really important regional and national healthcare zone.”
The Vice-Chancellor also stressed the important role medicine and nursing students have already played within the city during the Covid pandemic with many students working on the NHS front-line and playing a key role in the vaccination programme.