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Unique Collaboration Set to Make A Difference Up North

180 organisations involved in helping regenerate some of the most deprived areas in the North of England are set to benefit from a unique collaboration between four northern UK universities which will bring benefits worth over £11 million and draw in over £6 million of additional regeneration funding over the next five years.

Northumbria University has joined forces with Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Salford, and the University of Central Lancashire in a project, which will address some of the key urban regeneration challenges facing the North of England today.

Called ‘Urban Regeneration: Making A Difference’, the project is being co-ordinated by Northumbria University’s Director of the Research, Regional and European Office, Oisin MacNamara.

He says: “This is a groundbreaking project which we hope will pave the way for greater collaboration between the higher education sector and everyone involved in delivering regeneration on the ground. The main legacy of the project is to make a real and lasting difference to urban regeneration right across the north of England, by improving the know-how and working practices of agencies engaged in regeneration by involving academic staff in working collaboratively on such activities”.

The project has benefited from a £3.2m HEFCE grant and will focus on four interrelated aspects of social and physical regeneration, each theme led by one of the project’s partner universities.

Northumbria University will lead on Health and Well-Being, pulling together an inter-disciplinary team and utilising acclaimed expertise from across the University. Community Cohesion will be led by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), the University of Salford will lead on Enterprise and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) will take the lead on Crime. Associate partner the University of Bradford will provide additional expertise on community engagement, in particularly ethnicity.

Despite massive regeneration over the past 20 years and clear signs of economic diversification, it is vital for the North of England to improve competitiveness at a faster rate if it is to keep up with national averages and global competition. It is also essential for each city region to achieve sustainable communities.

This project aims to tackle the real and very complex problems facing communities in the north of England – where social, economic and physical infrastructure issues are closely inter-related.

Oisin MacNamara adds: “Collectively, we will be offering over 1,000 days of support to organisations throughout the North and we hope this will be a two way process – with academics making a real difference to the delivery of projects on the ground and in turn being enthused by real life case studies which will have a direct benefit to the students of today and tomorrow”.

The project will also have a direct impact on key national agendas such as widening participation and knowledge transfer and will see the development of key advisory posts for academics within external agencies. It is also expected to lead to new accredited learning programmes and business start ups.

Seven projects – worth over £250,000 - have already been approved. They include:

·Working with a range of organisations in areas of social exclusion to maximise the contribution of extended schools within the community.

·Developing the role of higher education experts in the field of regeneration to enable them to work directly with local communities, as well as the major regeneration agencies.

·A mentoring scheme for 50 micro businesses, drawing upon the expertise of successful local entrepreneurs.

·Changing community perceptions of economic migration focusing on Polish communities in Newcastle upon Tyne and Crewe.

·Encouraging residents to value diversity of heritage in an area that has seen a major change in its community base over the past two decades. Oral history and art experts will record personal experiences and work with residents, empowering them to build a new cohesive community.

·An evaluation of active and positive fathering initiatives in black and African communities in Liverpool to generate understanding across different community groups and between generations.

·A documentary-making initiatives in Crewe and Nantwich which will bring international communities together, enabling them to discover and contribute to the cultural heritage of the area.

Oisin adds: “The results will be discussed at a series of seminars and workshops, culminating in a major conference to be held in 2008. However, it is anticipated that the real impact of this project will be felt by communities throughout the North of England, making a real difference and leaving a lasting legacy”.

The Rt. Hon. Hilary Armstrong MP, Minister for Cabinet Office and Social Exclusion says: “As Minister for Social Exclusion, I take great heart from this innovative collaboration between four of our great northern universities. As the Government’s Social Exclusion Action Plan highlights, organisational partnerships across our society can effectively tackle social and economic deprivation. That is clearly the intention here, and why I am happy to lend my wholehearted support.”

Ruth Laing | alfa
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