Ulster University focus on quality, output and impact has never been stronger - Professor Alastair Adair
IN challenging times for the higher education sector, it is has never been more vital to ensure young people feel inspired and supported to learn.
University has, for centuries, been viewed as the pinnacle of academic achievement, allowing students to develop essential life skills and set themselves on the path to a valuable career.
A university degree is the ultimate endorsement of talent and skill, delivering life-changing research and acting as a springboard to a high-value career.
There is no doubt as to the tangible impact which universities have on global economies as well as the community around them, but are we all doing enough to collectively inspire and ultimately ensure that access to higher education is encouraged and nurtured?
In Northern Ireland, our universities make a significant contribution to the economy. Recent reports by Universities UK highlight that higher education is worth over £1.5 billion to the local economy per year and is responsible for the creation of over 18,000 jobs.
Our graduates are visible across every facet of industry and society. Their skills are one of the key reasons investors locate here and local companies can expand globally, and as an institution, we are focused on ensuring that our partnerships with companies in key sectors deliver benefits to all.
From our Santander SME Internships to Allen &Overy's support for Ulster University's Law Clinic, postgraduate Clinical Legal Education course, our motivation to collaborate with business is firmly rooted in our belief that our students deserve the best possible experience as it will shape the rest of their lives.
Employer placements enable students to gain practical experience with internationally focused companies and these placements provide a valuable insight into future careers and opportunities to fine-tune their skills.
Every year employers including Kainos, Warner Bros, PwC, Allianz and Randox invest time in our young people, helping them to see the value of their studies and how their personal contribution makes a difference to the skills pipeline. Such mentorship is critical to our young people and our future economic success.
That relevant skills pipeline isn't just essential for future economic growth, it is also essential for areas that affect the very health and wellbeing of society.
From the next generation of highly talented nurses graduating from our Magee campus, to treatment breakthroughs for pancreatic cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's at our Coleraine campus, the value of the university experience to the wider community is incalculable.
Add to that our students who, through volunteer-based sports outreach activities, aim to bring children from disadvantaged backgrounds closer to a university education, and our role at the heart of the community is clear.
We must ensure that higher education is valued and available to those who will thrive with the experience. Budget cuts have meant hard choices for universities but our focus on quality, our focus on the outputs, our focus on a true and lasting positive impact - for and by our students - has never been stronger.
:: Professor Alastair Adair, is deputy vice-chancellor at Ulster University.