Wakefield 'naturally at disadvantage' from having no university

Wakefield is "naturally at a disadvantage" from not being a university city, councillors have been told.

By David Spereall
Thursday, 24th February 2022, 5:29 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th February 2022, 5:30 pm

The debate about how much the area would benefit from having a uni of its own, like West Yorkshire neighbours Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield, has rumbled on for years.

Higher education courses are now available in the district, at both Wakefield College and Production Park.

Bringing a bona fide university to the district was an ambition of the local council's long-serving former leader, Peter Box.

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Around 10 per cent of graduates permanently stay where they studied, council figures suggest.

The issue was raised again at a scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, during a discussion about the district's economic and employment prospects.

Asked if Wakefield was at a disadvantage for not being a university city, the council's head of economic development and investment, Mike Denby said: "Around about 10 per cent of individuals stay in the area they study.

"Consequently we don't benefit from that.

"We've residents who may move away to another area and don't come back because they've stayed in the area they studied.

Wakefield is believed to be missing out on the benefits of attracting university students.

"Naturally we're at a disadvantage from that."

Mr Denby said the council had forged links with the University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University and Huddersfield University, in a bid to attract more graduates.

The area has built up much of its economic infrastructure around manufacturing, warehousing and logistics, though wages in those sectors are typically low.

Mr Denby said however, that the district now offered some "high-paid engineering jobs", because of demand for people who can fix and maintain the robots neing used in those industries.

But on the subject of the white collar workforce he added: "Those individuals who may be studying marketing or business may want to establish their own businesses.

"There will normally be a business centre where they study where they'll be able to get support from.

"And so they're not just living there, that's where they set up their business as well.

"We've tried to make the most of not having a uni, but yes we are at a disadvantage.

"We're doing what we can to address what we see as a deficit around skills."

Local Democracy Reporting Service