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The Kerslake Collection

The future of universities and their places, five years on from the Civic University Commission.

About the collection

The UPP Foundation has published a bold new collection of essays from leading thinkers across different sectors outlining the economic and social benefits universities have on their local communities. The collection is published in memory of Lord Bob Kerskale, Chair of the UPP Foundation’s Civic University Commission (2018-19), who died in 2023. The collection features over 40 essayists from across the political spectrum and across different sectors – including education, business, healthcare, local government, think tanks, charities and the arts – who all advocate for universities to have a stronger voice in place-making. Each essay includes policy ideas for the new Government to enable the local civic role to thrive.


Lord Bob Kerslake

Chair of the UPP Foundation Civic University Commission 2018-19

Bob Kerslake, who died in 2023, was one of the most distinguished public servants of his generation. He had been chief executive of Hounslow Council and then of Sheffield City Council, before becoming chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency and permanent secretary at the Department of Communities and Local Government, ending his career as the head of the Home Civil Service. He left the civil service in 2015 and became a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords, assuming an extraordinary range of public-service duties. He was chair of the board of governors at Sheffield Hallam University; chair of King’s College Hospital Trust; chair of BeFirst, the regeneration arm of Barking and Dagenham Council; and chair of the Peabody Trust, one of the largest providers of rented housing in the United Kingdom. He chaired the UK2070 Commission, he chaired the inquiry into the emergency response to the 2017 Manchester bombing, and he advised the Labour Party on its preparations for government. He was an almost constant fixture in the media, as an incisive and well-informed commentator on the workings of politics and government. He always spoke with conviction and authority. He cared passionately about the future of the nation and the way organisations in it worked, and he wanted them to work better, more effectively and more confidently for the public good.

As part of his commitment to public service and higher education Bob agreed to be Chair of the UPP Foundation Civic University Commission. This ran between 2018-19 and had a transformative impact on the higher education sector, with over 70 universities adopting the Commission’s main recommendation to establish Civic University Agreements. The Commission also led to the creation of the Civic University Network, hosted at Sheffield Hallam University. Bob was the first Chair of the Network’s Advisory Board.

The Kerslake Collection Essays