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How international students help create a more prosperous North East economy

By Jane Robinson, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Engagement & Place at Newcastle University

The North East is home to some of the best universities in the world, and because of our global reputation we welcome thousands of international and EU students every year.

In the 2018/19 academic year 12,595 international first year students came to study in the North East, and a new report by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Universities UK International has looked in detail at the benefits international higher education students bring to both the UK and regional economy.

The report shows the 2018/19 cohort of international students in the UK delivered a net economic benefit to the country of £25.9 billion. In the North East LEP area, the total net impact on the economy was just under £1bn (£975.9m).

In fact the North East region, including Tees Valley, delivers one of the highest average impacts per parliamentary constituency in the country; an estimated £460 per member of the resident population, second only to London and on par with Scotland. Newcastle upon Tyne East is ranked fourth in the top 20 parliamentary constituencies in terms of the net impact international students have on the economy.

The UK’s exit from the European Union and the coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly created barriers for international students to study in the UK, something that is reflected in EU student recruitment, which is currently lower than in 2020. International student numbers have, however, stayed relatively stable in the 2020/21 academic year.

Whilst the findings in the report are extremely positive for the North East region, it fails to include is some of the other important indirect benefits international students bring to our regional economy, such as tax revenues, investment and trade links, and the soft diplomatic power exerted on an international stage as a result of the networks built up during their stays.

We only need to look at the hugely successful alcoholic tea company NOVELTEA, which was founded by two international Newcastle University students in 2016 to see this in action. Based in Newcastle, the company has expanded into several international markets – including Germany and China – and plans to create further jobs as it eyes expansion into the US. By choosing to remain in the North East to grow their business, NOVELTEA’s co-founders, Vincent Effroth and Lukas Passia, have created new jobs, boosted the North East economy, established positive trade links and raised the profile of our region internationally.

Newcastle University’s START UP programme is also supporting and endorsing ambitious international graduates to remain in the UK to start and grow businesses. Four of the programme’s graduates have been accepted onto the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) prestigious Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP), which connects companies into the global ecosystem and supports them to scale their solution to address global opportunities. The partnership between START UP and GEP allows highly motivated, talented entrepreneurs to thrive in our region and add significant value to both the regional economy and UK PLC.

The Higher Education Policy Institute and Universities UK International report focuses solely on the economic benefits international students bring to academic institutions and destinations, but I think it’s important to remember the North East benefits in a number of other ways too. The wider cultural and societal impacts are just as important to our region.

At Newcastle University alone we have over 150 nationalities represented on campus, and that diversity helps create a more vibrant and creative environment for all our students.

We’re seeing many international students remain in the North East after their studies to take up skilled positions in our emerging sectors, or start new businesses of their own, which go on to employ people and contribute to our local economy.

If we think about the North East’s strengths in data and digital, life sciences and the green economy, as well as our cultural and creative opportunities, the global links we’ve established through our international students can create opportunities for North East businesses to attract talent and investment.

I also firmly believe our UK students enjoy a better learning experience because of the diversity on our campuses. It’s a chance for them to build connections across the world that can open up a world of opportunity.

The report makes for fascinating reading, and further demonstrates the essential role universities in the North East play in delivering a stronger North East economy and a vibrant and diverse place to live, work and study.

To read ‘The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy’ visit www.hepi.ac.uk.

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New reports on North East economy reveal impact of COVID-19 and EU Exit

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has published two new reports, one, an annual state of the region report and the other exploring the impact of COVID-19 and EU Exit on the North East economy.

The LEP’s annual Our Economy report has been published in two parts in 2021. The first report tracks the long term performance of the North East LEP economy across a range of key economic indicators and provides an overview of how it is changing over time.

It also includes an update on progress towards the North East LEP’s aim of bringing 100,000 more and better jobs to the region by 2024, and analysis of the impact of emerging policy priorities, like levelling up and decarbonisation, on the North East.

The second report provides a comprehensive and in-depth look at the national and regional data, research, insights and commentary that shows how COVID-19 and EU exit has impacted the regional economy. Drawing on a range of additional and innovative sources of data, ‘Our Economy: Insights into the impact of COVID-19 and EU transition on the North East Economy’ gathers intelligence on the impacts of the pandemic and EU exit on the North East economy from March 2020 to the current day.

Lucy Winskell OBE, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “This year, perhaps more than any other, developing our shared understanding of change in the regional economy is crucial.

“The work we have done to track, analyse and interpret data and evidence about the performance of our regional economy is central to our role at the North East LEP and a core part of the support we offer our partners.

“It is integral to our economic leadership, our influencing work with government, and underpins our investment decisions and stewardship of public funds, ensuring that regional programmes of delivery are targeted at addressing the key opportunities and challenges we face.”

The reports state that whilst the short-term impact of COVID-19 on the North East was highly disruptive and challenging, the region has continued to sustain increased levels of employment compared with its baseline in 2014, with continued growth of the proportion of better jobs – managers, directors and senior officials; professional occupations; and associate professional and technical occupations – in the region.

They also show the impact of COVID-19 on business and the labour market has been significant. Some sectors, including retail, culture and hospitality, have seen severe changes. Local, regional and national intervention has had an impact in protecting businesses and jobs, but the impact now many of these support measures have ended is unclear.

Inequalities within the region have been exacerbated by the pandemic too, with employers in many industries struggling with skills shortages.

The reports also include data showing that the region’s engagement with the global economy is changing, with the impact of EU Exit creating barriers to trade and the future trading environment still evolving.

Our Economy 2021 also looks at the performance of our programmes and sectors – which have been identified as areas of opportunity for the region, including health and life sciences, digital and energy.

Richard Baker, Strategy and Policy Director at the North East LEP explained: “The economic shock has accelerated a number of opportunities for the North East, with growth and new jobs in some of the key areas of strength and opportunity we have been focused on – in energy, life sciences and digital industries for example.

“Many firms across the economy have changed their operational models, with rapid deployment of digital technology, changing approaches to delivery of goods and services locally and growth in online exporting. There are genuine opportunities for the region to drive forward greener businesses and to drive productivity.”

The evidence provided by Our Economy is used to inform the work of the North East LEP and partners across the region in delivering the North East Strategic Economic Plan – the roadmap for increasing economic growth in the North East.

Our Economy 2021 is available to view on evidencehub.northeastlep.co.uk.

Our Economy: Insights into the impact of COVID-19 and EU transition on the North East Economy is also available to view on evidencehub.northeastlep.co.uk.

The North East Strategic Economic Plan can be read at northeastlep.co.uk.

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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)*.

“The latest data covers the March to May period, during which some COVID-19 restrictions were eased. Despite these changes, the overall labour market picture remained relatively unchanged on the previous (December to February) quarter with both the employment and unemployment rates remaining the same. 

“The North East continues to have the lowest working-age employment rate (72.0%) among the nine English regions and the second highest unemployment rate (5.8% of the economically active). The region also has the highest proportion of people who are economically inactive (23.6%).

“ONS continue to innovate with new data approaches to provide more up to date intelligence to support assessment of the economy, for example, a new experimental measure of payrolled employees. This suggests a more positive picture with the latest monthly estimate showing there was an increase of almost 12,000 payrolled employees in June. This is encouraging and we will monitor how this new data set develops given it is subject to revision and excludes information about self-employed workers.

“Beneath the general figures, COVID-19 continues to have an impact on the working lives of many people in the North East region and appears to be exacerbating inequalities. Whilst people were securing new jobs and there is growth in vacancies, about 4,400 workers experienced redundancy in the latest quarter, more than twice the total in the previous quarter and bringing the total to over 32,000 since March 2020. The latest data shows a particular impact on women in the North East with female employment falling by 3,600 in the latest quarter, in contrast to a 2,800 increase among males.

“Job seekers claimant count data provides indications of the variations of unemployment within the North East LEP area. At constituency level, the rates range from 2.8% in Hexham to 9.0% in South Shields.

“At the end of May, almost 63,000 workers in the North East LEP area were still furloughed, with workers in food and accommodation services still making up almost a quarter of this figure. Manufacturing accounted for 11,000 of the furloughed workers, a total that did not drop during those three months. 

“This provides a strong rationale for the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda with support needed to the North East as a whole and for places within the region. Over the longer term, our Recovery Plan sets out proposals to drive forward our vision of a more sustainable, competitive and inclusive regional economy. As the Prime Minister outlines the next steps with for the Levelling Up strategy, the North East LEP will continue to work with Government and our partners to provide support to our regional economy as we work through the recovery phase to seek investment into these proposals.”

*The official data released today includes employment information based on surveys in three month period March to May 2021 for the North East region, which includes the North East and Tees Valley LEP areas. It also includes experimental estimates of payrolled employee numbers and job seekers claimant count numbers for June 2021. The regional data has been revised to take account of improved population estimates.

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Queen’s birthday honours recognition for North East LEP chief executive Helen Golightly

One of the region’s most respected leaders has been awarded an OBE for services to business and the regional economy.

Helen Golightly, chief executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), has been recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours list, which marks the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the UK.

Under Helen’s leadership, partner engagement with the North East LEP and the region’s Strategic Economic Plan has helped deliver over 71,000 jobs since 2014 the employment gap between the North East and England (excluding London) has reduced by 26%.

Helen has been instrumental in securing over £2billion investment for the region, resulting in the delivery of 140 capital and 40 revenue projects securing 20,000 more jobs for the region.

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen Helen play a leading role in the region’s response, bringing together the public, private, education and voluntary sectors to form the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group. The Group’s work secured region-wide support for a staged recovery plan to build confidence, stabilise the economy and help businesses adapt to the new normal.

Helen has been Chair of the £120m North East Fund since its inception in 2016 and helped design this important access to finance initiative to ensure SMEs could raise the start-up and growth capital needed. During her time as the Chief Executive of the North East Combined Authority (NECA), she cemented public private relationships to drive forward economic plans together.

Helen said: “I feel proud and humbled to be recognised in this way. I would like to dedicate this honour to the whole team at the North East LEP, who strive to increase investment and improve skills, job opportunities and purposeful business support across the North East to improve the lives of others. 

Focused, collaborative work with partners has never been more important as we emerge from the pandemic, and I feel privileged to play a role in responding to the economic impact and opportunities that lie ahead for our very special region.”

Lucy Winskell OBE DL, chair of the North East LEP, said: “Helen is utterly deserving of this honour, having worked quietly but tirelessly to advocate for the North East at the highest levels and ensure that the business community has what it needs to not just survive but thrive.

“Extremely well respected, Helen’s vision and commitment is inspiring – it’s a privilege to work alongside her as we focus on our joint ambition to help the region succeed.”

North East LEP vice-chair Heidi Mottram added: “This accolade is a real achievement and is testament to the leadership and innovation Helen has shown. Thanks to her efforts, the North East LEP is recognised as a national exemplar for its work in skills and business growth. We’re delighted for her.”

Sarah Glendinning, CBI regional director, said: “Helen has always had the region’s best interests at heart and her work continues to make a genuine and measurable difference within the business community and to the economy. Despite the significance of her contribution, Helen is incredibly unassuming so it’s even more fantastic to see her receive this personal recognition and honour.”


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North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP) Strategy and Policy Director, Richard Baker, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

“This release provides official data to the end of 2020 and enables us to see the full picture about the impact COVID-19 had on the region’s labour market in 2020.

“Looking at the figures for the last quarter of 2020, the number of unemployed people seeking work in the North East region, including the North East LEP and the Tees Valley LEP areas, was 18 per cent higher than in the first quarter of the year. The North East employment rate is the lowest in England at 71.2 per cent and 29,000 people were made redundant in the region during 2020, the highest total since 2012.

“In the later months of 2020, the labour market was less volatile than earlier in the year, but the statistics do not yet include the full impact of the restrictions since Christmas.

“In the North East LEP area, the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits has increased by over 30,000 since March 2020.

“It is important to look at the detail to understand where the biggest impact has been felt and to identify key future policy challenges. Overall, the impact has been highest in younger age groups and one in ten people are claiming unemployment-related benefits in some areas.

“Another striking feature is the different impact on men and women. Compared with the first quarter of the year, the number of unemployed women in the region has increased by 10,000 or 47 per cent, while male unemployment has grown by 2,000 (just over 4 per cent).

“Yesterday’s announcement from government gives a clear pathway out of lockdown and will offer hope for many people after a very difficult year. However, it remains an uncertain time for businesses as we move to cautiously lift the COVID-19 controls and continue to adapt to new processes following the Trade Deal with the European Union.

“Support for those businesses remaining under restrictions due to the pandemic needs to continue and strategic leadership and a strong partnership with government will be critical as we look to drive forward our regional economy and address some of the key challenges which COVID-19 has created in our region.”


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Future proofing the North East economy

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a period of accelerated change across the world that has left many businesses thinking long and hard about what the future holds.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) and its partners have been supporting the region’s business community to manage the impact of the pandemic and also plan for our economic recovery. Our work continues to be guided by the North East Strategic Economic Plan, which sets out our ambition to create more and better jobs by growing four specific areas of industry – digital, advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, and energy.

To complement and run alongside the North East Strategic Economic Plan, we want to delve even deeper into the emerging markets and future trends that will dominate the UK and global economies. What are the sectors and areas of industry that will provide the greatest economic growth opportunities in the future? And how can the North East capitalise on them?

To help us answer those questions, we’re seeking to appoint a specialist contractor that can undertake an independent markets foresight analysis on behalf of the North East. We want to identify the short, medium and long-term opportunities our region should focus on to support our immediate economic recovery, and those that will help grow our economy in the future too; creating jobs for local people, attracting investment in the region, and improving our economic activity rates and productivity.

Some of the potential areas of opportunity are in response to our current situation. Active and sustainable travel, for example, has rocketed during the coronavirus pandemic and there is more demand for environmentally friendly transport solutions. How can the North East use its world-renowned expertise and skills in the automotive sector to drive forward this green revolution?

Renewable energy made up almost half of Britain’s electricity generation in the first three months 2020, further bolstering the green energy sector. What does that mean for the North East? How can we grow our share of the market?

How well positioned are we in the region to respond to future technology developments that will affect trends in key sectors; for example autonomous vehicles, the ageing population, and the rollout of 5G – or even 6G capability?

This project is about future proofing the North East economy and making sure we’re ready to respond to global economic opportunities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The North East LEP would like to undertake the economic markets foresight analysis this year, and we invite interested suppliers to join us at a online supplier briefing event on Monday 05 October from 10:00-13:00.

Find out more about this exciting opportunity to help the North East shape its future competitiveness, and sign up to attend, by visiting the eventbrite page.

By Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

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Universities support North East’s economic recovery: TechUPWomen

Universities have a vital role to play in helping the North East economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The work being delivered by North East universities is supporting new and existing businesses to innovate and grow, and shaping and supporting a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University are all members of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

Below is a case study about Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme, which took 100 women from the North of England and the Midlands, and retrained them for a career in technology.

Durham University wanted to address the fact that only 17% of the tech workforce is female, and women from Black, Asian and other minority communities are under-represented in the sector.

In 2019 it launched TechUPWomen, a programme that retrained 100 women from the North of England and the Midlands for a career in technology. In spring 2020, the TechUPWomen participants graduated from the six-month programme having developed skills in data science, machine learning, and project management.

Whilst studying for the programme, participant Benedicta Banga launched her own app – Blaqbase. Fellow graduate Shakirah Mustapha-Tahir is now working for HR in One as Content Manager and has been elected Board Trustee of Being Woman UK. Winona Sharpe, who also completed the course, started a new position as Junior Release Associate with Double Eleven Ltd, a games developer based in Teesside.

Other success stories include Jennifer Calland who has a new job as a Google Certified Platform Engineer for Cloud Technology Solutions and has been awarded a place at Edge Hill University to do an MSc in Big Data Analytics. Course graduate Amy Woodget has a new job as Lead Advisor in Earth Observation for the Civil Service, and Katherine Iveson has a new job as a Data Analyst for HMRC.

Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme was named winner of the Employment & Skills category at the Digital Agenda Impact Awards, which celebrates how technology and innovation improves lives.

For more information about Durham University’s TechUPWomen programme, visit www.techupwomen.org.

Click here to read more about how universities in the region are playing a central role in supporting the region to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

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Our Economy 2020 paints a mixed picture of the North East economy’s performance  

Today, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has published the latest edition of Our Economy, an annual publication which examines the performance of the North East economy and how it is changing over time.

This year’s report has also looked in more depth at how the economy varies across different geographic areas within the region.

Victoria Sutherland, Senior Economist at the North East LEP, explains: “This year, Our Economy is being published at a time of immense change and it provides a baseline showing the performance of the North East economy before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year’s report provides data and evidence that we and our partners can use to position the North East for recovery, as we work to bring more and better jobs to our region.”

Each year, Our Economy reviews the North East’s performance across a range of indicators. This is the third year that Our Economy has been published and this year’s report paints a mixed picture of the region’s economic performance.

Our Economy shows that the gap between the North East and the rest of England, excluding London, has widened on a number of indicators, including the value of the goods and services produced per head, employment rate and productivity rate.

In contrast, areas of progress include increasing expenditure on R&D by businesses, increasing proportion of our population qualified to degree-level and above, increased employment in science, research, engineering and technology roles, improved access to superfast broadband and 4G, and increased public expenditure on transport.

The evidence provided by Our Economy is used to inform the work of the North East LEP and partners across the region in delivering the North East Strategic Economic Plan – the roadmap for increasing economic growth in the North East.

Victoria Sutherland added: “What we can see in the report suggests that, even before COVID-19 began to impact the North East, there was a need to do more to grow and develop our economy. 

“Going forward, the focus of our efforts must be to ensure that every part of our region is able to contribute to and benefit from efforts to improve the performance of our economy.”

Our Economy is available to download on the North East Data Hub website and a short video summarising the findings can be viewed here.


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In conversation with Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University

Education employs 85,000 people in the North East and offers significant opportunities for more and better jobs in the region, directly and indirectly. Durham University is a world leader and has a ten-year strategy to invest £1 billion in people, and digital and physical infrastructures. Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge explores how universities can make a major contribution locally and globally, support a diverse and vibrant economy, and help tackle the country’s productivity challenge.

Education has long been a North East success story. But it’s not just part of our heritage, it’s a key sector for our future too: both in nurturing the highly-skilled workforce of tomorrow, and as a major employer, innovator, and exporter today.

Here at Durham, we’re not just England’s third oldest university; we’re making significant investments to ensure we remain a world-class university: investment that is absolutely necessary as we face increasing competition from universities in Asia, North America, Europe and elsewhere.

Universities already make a sizeable contribution to the economy: over £50 billion GVA in 2014/15, according to Universities UK. Our own figures suggest we were responsible for around £1.1 billion of that total.

At Durham, we employ 4,300 staff and have 18,400 students – considerable numbers in a City with a population of around 65,000.

But we believe there is also great potential for growth: the average student head count across Russell Group universities is 27,000; and the average staff roll is 7,700. So we’re in a period of carefully planned expansion: to recruit an extra 360 academic staff and grow our student numbers to 21,500 by 2027.

We believe we can achieve these targets because we continue to attract high calibre staff and students from around the world. We are also consistently ranked among the world’s top 100 universities (most recently 78th in the QS World University Rankings 2020).

But this isn’t just about us: the North East stands to benefit hugely from our success and from that of all the universities in the region: Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland.

It’s estimated that international students contribute around £700 million a year to the North East economy. As we and others look to attract more students from overseas (our target is 35% by 2027) this income will grow significantly.

Education and training is another valuable export industry. We continue to benefit from English being the international language of choice and the long-standing reputation of UK education. Many of our alumni hold senior roles in government and industry worldwide.

The value of education exports to the UK was almost £20 billion in 2016, and the value of transnational education within that, though still relatively small (£1.8 billion), was up 73% on 2010, showing the growing attractiveness of this option to overseas students.

We also need to tackle the big challenges facing our home economy – not least the productivity gap. Universities are well-placed on this front as we collaborate with industry to develop new technologies, research new ways of working and deliver high-level skills for the workforce of the future.

The Northern Accelerator programme, which brings together Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland Universities, is helping researchers to spin out and commercialise ideas, leading to the formation of potentially high-growth, research-intensive businesses linked to the research expertise here in the North East.

The Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme, which involves Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Teesside universities, is helping SMEs access academics, PhD students and research facilities to address their research challenges, leading in turn to the development of new products and services.

And the Durham City Incubator, a partnership between ourselves, Durham County Council and New College Durham, is supporting and encouraging graduate and student enterprise: helping our graduates stay in the North East and creating new and better jobs.

We’re all aware of the challenges facing us, but working together as a region we can drive success. Universities aren’t businesses in a conventional sense. We don’t have shareholders, nor do we seek to maximise profits. But we do deliver jobs, value and innovation. We are major enterprises in the modern economy. We are anchors for the future of the North East.