A city’s prospects rest on many things – its jobs, culture, travel links and nightlife – but a quality university underpins it all. Not only does a great institution attract talent from around the world, it stimulates a regional economy, boosting employment as well as takings for retail, recreation and service businesses. Meanwhile, if more graduates feel connected to their city, they’ll end up staying there. They’ll take and create more highly skilled jobs for long-term growth.
Few places recognise this more than Preston. A landmark £200m UCLan Campus Masterplan project is already reshaping the University of Central Lancashire and the region at large.
Announced in 2015, the Masterplan focuses on four key public development sites in addition to several venues that are either in progress or stand completed. These will leave a huge mark on Preston over the next decade – much of which will enhance the city’s status as the highest performer in the North West, in terms of skills, opportunity and work/life balance.
Six years ago, Vice Chancellor Professor Gary Kelleher stressed the project’s role in Preston’s future, saying that “developing a workforce which meets local, national and international needs is central to our plans.” These ambitions are playing out in the finished product. Its first stages – new social and work spaces – came to fruition in 2017, fitting glass roofs, moveable furniture and an indoor garden.
The Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC), a £32m testing and research facility, followed in spring 2019. It’s become a vital link between graduates and employers, who can meet, mould and headhunt young engineers as they study.
More than a quarter of the budget is being funnelled into the Student Centre and Civic Square. Together, they provide over 15,000 sqm of offices, meeting rooms, workspace and public engagement. Popup businesses can take the square over, selling themselves to the student market. 300 new trees are being planted, while the Student Centre boasts the highest single span curtain walling in Europe.
Along with a multi-faith venue, an additional road and significant regeneration to the nearby Adelphi Quarter, the Masterplan is a major part of Preston’s rising reputation, which means more people will want to live and work here.
The North West is no stranger to strong graduate retention. In 2018, 37% of students across Lancashire chose to stay when entering the professional workforce. UCLan itself has 38,000 students – one of the largest campus populations in the country. That’s also more than a quarter of the city’s residents. Investing in their connections, prospects and wellbeing will only raise the chances of someone staying when they graduate.
This is further reflected by local employment rates – latest figures stand at 77.5%, beating both North West and UK averages. That figure will keep growing. Thanks to its world-class facilities, resources and public infrastructure, UCLan will become even more attractive to young talent. Subsequently, businesses have their pick of the best candidates. Competition breeds variety, which makes the region more magnetic for career development, attracting even more young professionals.
Want to take advantage of where Preston’s heading? Contact us to put your own masterplan into action.
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