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New Essay Collection on the Transformative Civic Role of Universities Launched In Memory of Lord Bob Kerslake

The UPP Foundation has today (Wednesday 10 July) launched a 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 Kerslake, Chair of the UPP Foundation’s Civic University Commission (2018-19), who sadly died last year.

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.

Contributors include Andy Haldane, Chief Executive of the RSA and former Chief Economist at the Bank of England; Matthew Taylor CBE, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation  and former Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to Prime Minister Tony Blair; Darren Henley CBE, Chief Executive of the Arts Council England; Polly Mackenzie, Chief Social Purpose Officer at the University of Arts London and former Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister; Adam Hawksbee, the previous Government’s Towns Tsar and Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council.

The collection touches on a number of issues of vital importance to towns, cities and regions, including local economic growth, raising educational attainment and opportunity for disadvantaged groups, the local supply of the NHS workforce, improving the local environment, and access to culture and the arts. Following the launch at the National Theatre, the full collection is available from

Several prominent public figures have also signed an open letter to the new Prime Minister calling for actions including support for the creative sector, investment in the NHS workforce and a review of how the post-16 educational sector can overcome the current funding crisis affecting it – all of which would continue Bob’s legacy.

Among many other leadership roles, Lord Kerslake was Chair of the UPP Foundation Civic University Commission supporting over 70 universities in developing Civic University Agreements and the creation of the Civic University Network. The groundbreaking work championed by Lord Kerslake has transformed the relationship between universities and their local communities across the UK.

This stands as one among many other achievements across a lifetime of public service. As a former head of the civil service, a prominent figure in local government, housing and higher education and a regular media political commentator, Lord Kerslake and his vision for society touched thousands of lives. His impact is reflected in the breadth of the essays brought together in the collection, with reflections on everything from the future of English devolution to the role of universities in tackling homelessness.

“It has been an honour to orchestrate this collection to celebrate the legacy of our late great friend Bob Kerslake. It was the privilege of my career to work closely with Bob, his passion, insight, and hard work were crucial to the success of our Civic University Commission, and I know that everyone involved in the collection has benefitted from Bob’s wisdom over the years. We hope that this collection provides the inspiration to the new Government to build on Bob’s work to ensure the civic role is truly recognised.”

Richard Brabner, Executive Chair of the UPP Foundation

“Bob was one of the most gifted and committed public servants of our time. It’s fitting that we launch this collection this evening, just a few days into the new government.  Bob was respected across the political spectrum, but there is no doubt that had he lived he would have been a powerful resource for a progressive government embarking on national renewal. It falls to those of us who remain to rise to the standards he set, to play our part in shaping and doing policy for the common good”.

Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Former Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University

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