A brief overview of the Higher Education sector and challenges it faces – Prof Gill Valentine – 15th November 2021

Prof Gill Valentine. © University of Sheffield

Professor Gill Valentine is a leading player in the world of academia, locally and nationally.

When she talks about matters of education, especially further education, people listen. And that was certainly the case when Stumperlowe Probus Club members were fortunate enough to be given almost two hours of Prof Valentine’s valuable time for our latest Zoom presentation. Listen they did, and she responded meticulously to some probing questions, including from one of our own retired university professors.

Gill is Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield. She worked at the university between 1994 and 2004, when she left to join Leeds University as Head of the School of Geography. In 2012 she rejoined Sheffield as Pro-Vice Chancellor for Social Sciences. She is a member of the university’s Executive Board and has chaired the Quality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

She is a specialist in social geography, with her key areas of research covering social identities and belonging, childhood, parenting and family life, and urban cultures and consumption. She is a co-founder of the journal Social & Cultural Geography, and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2018.

In her career to date Gill has secured research grants worth more than £5 million, including a prestigious European Research Council Advanced Investigator award, and she has published 17 books and more than 170 articles. She serves on the editorial boards of two international journals, Children’s Geographies and Geography Compass.

Gill opened her talk with an overview of the higher education system, which over the last ten to 15 years has grown to a total of 232 HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) in England and around 100 traditional universities, and the challenges faced over future funding with reference to the Augar Review into the cost of delivering higher education.

Gill was keen to highlight the co-operation between the university and local businesses and communities, with ambitious plans to power the region’s regeneration by finding new ways of sharing talent. The university is working with local schools and colleges, from primary children to mature students, particularly targeting areas where young people are least likely to go into higher education.

They work with partners across the region on the RISE business support initiative, and to date the university has helped more than 400 regionally based SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to recruit over 500 graduates. At the university’s renowned Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, where partnerships are in place with companies such as Boeing, Rolls Royce and McLaren, they have helped 400 employers to train more than 1,500 apprentices. In partnership with the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, they have recently launched a new investment company, Northern Gritstone, to develop university spin-offs and start-ups.

The university has been working alongside the City Council and businesses to secure £15.8 million funding from the government’s Future High Streets Fund to ‘rejuvenate and reinvent’ Fargate and High Street as social hubs. The Medical School also works in partnership with the local community on health related issues, with student volunteers spending time in local primary and secondary schools, as well as Sheffield-based charities.

We were left in no doubt that the future wellbeing of Sheffield University and our local community, both financially and socially, are inextricably linked.