April 6, 2022 11.21 am

University of Lincoln “at the heart” of levelling up – former minister Justine Greening

Former minister took part in roundtable discussions

A former cabinet minister has said the University of Lincoln will be “at the heart” of levelling up the county in the future.

Justine Greening, the government’s former Secretary of State for Education and International Development and Economic Secretary to the Treasury joined a round-table discussion on the levelling up agenda and social mobility in Lincolnshire on Tuesday.

She was joined by around 30 other representatives from the business and educational sectors.

The University of Lincoln has launched its own impact report looking at some of the positive work it has done both in Lincoln and with employers more widely in the county.

Speaking to Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Jaines, Justine said: “[Universities] are really at the heart of [the levelling up programme].

“There’s no getting away from the fact if you want a higher wage, higher skill, higher productive, productivity economy, you need higher education.

“But that has to be a higher education sector that has social mobility at its heart, it’s literally got to be hoovering up the talent that you have in a place like Lincoln and Lincolnshire, and enabling it to develop and then connect it with opportunities.”

The former minister said her own personal experience of university had shown how “transformative” it could be to people’s lives.

Justine said the Levelling Up White Paper released by the Government, alongside measurements from the Office of National Statistics, showed the country was moving in the right direction.

However, she added: “Fundamentally, driving levelling up and changing lives for the better happens at a very local level and it’s the decisions and the leadership at that local level that actually probably makes the biggest difference.

“That’s why for me, I’ve always felt you can make a massive change on social mobility because I think a lot of those levers to pull are happening much, much more at a grass-roots local level.”

University of Lincoln’s Vice Chancellor Professor Neal Juster said the round-table discussion had brought together civic leaders around the county to look at how collectively they could address health, transport, jobs and housing issues.

“We’ve done a lot since we’ve been in Lincoln, and those who’ve been in in the city for more than 25 years can see the visual impact like where we’re sitting now in the medical school and this boulevard of new buildings where train lines used to exist,” he said.

The University has a number of projects including the University Academy Trust in Holbeach, and is involved in all the town deals across the country. It is also helping create student placements around the region.

“We are an educational establishment and a research establishment and the real impact we can make is improving the educational opportunities for people,” he said.