Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 13:20 UK

Universities offer downturn help

Some 300,000 students will be leaving university in the summer

England's universities and colleges are sharing a £27m fund aimed at helping people and businesses through the ongoing recession.

Engineers at car company Jaguar, other car firms in Sunderland and graduates struggling to find work are among those targeted by new projects.

More than 70 universities and colleges will share the money, matching it with their own and local funds.

Ministers say universities are showing they can be a "life-line" for families.

Details of the universities which successfully bid for money for projects have been announced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce).

The biggest winners include the University of Cumbria (£1m), Aston University (almost £1m), University of Derby (almost £1m), Sheffield Hallam University (£800,000), University of Sunderland (£707,000) and Newcastle University (£488,000).

At Sunderland University, funds are being used to boost the training of Nissan car workers, to offer graduates internships in local businesses and to support new graduates looking for work.

Universities are clearly showing that they can provide a lifeline in these challenging times
David Lammy, Higher Education Minister

With Gateshead College, the university has already been offering a foundation degree in "operational improvements" to staff at Nissan who would have otherwise had to go onto short-time working.

Some of the new funding will be directed towards training managers in leading staff through changes.

Professor Peter Fidler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, said: "The university has always worked closely with regional partners to ensure the growth of sustainable business in our region.

"This new initiative will support the region's manufacturing and automotive sector and the talented individuals who study at our university with flexible provision which responds directly to the needs of employers."

Engineers at Jaguar threatened with redundancy are to be offered training in research-based masters degrees at Brunel University. Jaguar employs about 15,000 in the English midlands and Merseyside.

Brunel is getting £499,000 for its programme, which focuses on the manufacturing and automotive sectors. Cambridge University will receive £498,560 to help small and medium-sized manufacturing firms.


The University of Cumbria is focusing on helping graduates into work. It will provide a Cumbria-wide information, advice and guidance programme to unemployed graduates and offer them extra training in areas such as communication skills and project management.

Businesses and unemployed graduates will also be offered discounts on course fees.

There have been warnings that this year will be one of the worst years in which to graduate for nearly two decades.

A report by High Fliers Research of 100 firms found recruitment targets had been cut by 17% for this year.

Minister of State for Higher Education David Lammy said: "Universities have demonstrated across the country that they are central to the fiscal stimulus that local communities businesses families and young people need.

"Universities are clearly showing that they can provide a lifeline in these challenging times by offering targeted short courses to adults who have lost their jobs, by connecting small businesses to graduates and university expertise, and by offering graduates the skills and opportunities to set up their own business."

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