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Letter: University’s Local Contribution is Extensive

Published on: 11 Jan, 2014
Updated on: 11 Jan, 2014

UoS StagFrom Greg Melly,

Vice-President, University of Surrey

In reflecting on the recent pieces by both Mr Richings and Mr Burch, it is clear to me that there is a lack of understanding about the university’s contribution to the local economy and its vision for the future. So, let’s get some facts straight.

The University of Surrey makes an enormous contribution to the local and national economy. We have always known this.

In a recent report produced by independent consultancy, BIGGAR Economics, it was concluded that in 2012/2013 the university and its Research Park generated £1.4 billion for the UK economy and supported almost 16,200 jobs. That’s an enormous number of local people whose livelihood is dependent on the success of our institution.

In addition, the university generates a broad range of wider unquantifiable benefits for the community. For example, thousands of local people visit the Surrey Sports Park, thousands of our children participate in educational activities organised by the university and a good number of our graduates are responsible for helping to develop Surrey’s knowledge-based economy over the last thirty years.

Benefits like these don’t just happen. We have a clear strategy driven by strong leadership which has allowed this to take place and we are keen to keep moving forward for the health of our institution, the local economy and the country as a whole.

Undoubtedly, moving forward means growth, development and, in some cases, expansion which is why we are building a new School of Veterinary Science and a 5G Innovation Centre, the benefits of which will be felt worldwide for many years to come.

In considering the university’s plans for development, it makes sense to think about our location and the needs of the local community. Our proposal for a development in west Guildford would undeniably help the university to facilitate some of its plans, whilst solving local housing and infrastructure issues, but it is for the Local Plan process to decide if there are better offers on the table. If this proves to be the case, we will continue to move forward in other ways.

For me, though, the big question is not what would the university do if these plans did not progress, but what would the local community do if the university no longer made the contribution that it does?

Let’s put the record straight on money too. The university would be failing in its duties if it did not generate a surplus from its assets and from its activities. But our purpose and mission is much wider than this.

We do not have shareholders and don’t pay dividends. We use surpluses to invest in the future of the university and in the future of the next generations. The financial “payback” for the UK is about 6.5 times our revenues each year but the non-financial benefit to science, society and future generations is a great deal more.

We are proud to be a “Top Ten” university, an accolade that we are keen to share with the people of Guildford and I urge them to see the institution for what it is, a healthy and significant contributor to Surrey life and one that fully intends to deliver real benefits to society for many generations to come.

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test 4 Responses to Letter: University’s Local Contribution is Extensive

  1. C Stevens Reply

    January 11, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Mr Melly, Vice-President (whatever that means) of the University of Surrey, suggests we should “get some facts straight”.

    I think that’s a great idea, so could I ask that he confirms that the university and the Research Park employ 16,200 local people because that’s what he implies when he writes:

    “…in 2012/2013 the university and its Research Park generated £1.4 billion for the UK economy and supported almost 16,200 jobs. That’s an enormous number of local people whose livelihood is dependent on the success of our institution.”

    If the figure of local people employed by the university and the Research Park is different from 16,200, perhaps he could let us know what the “enormous number” is?

  2. John Robson Reply

    January 13, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Universities are educational establishments not property developers and due to its current business activities and the fees it charges, the University of Surrey already does generate “a surplus”.

    I estimate that the 2,000 home housing development Mr Melly identified as a necessity for the University to continue its altruistic mission, will be worth an extremely conservative £500,000,000 (half a billion pounds). Perhaps he can clarify how much of “a surplus” he is trying to achieve?

    Finally, the green belt adjacent the AONB on the Hog’s Back has remained untouched since the beginning of time. In the grand scheme of things the time in which the university has held title is infinitesimal. The purpose for which the university acquired this land was never property development. Or was it?

    It should be noted that title to some of this land, this green belt, adjacent to an AONB, was given to the university to be utilised for educational and sporting purposes by Guildford Borough Council in 2003.

    And to counter Mr Melly’s question, let me ask this, what would the university do if the town did not support the university’s unquenchable thirst for expansion. Would the university simply move to another town like it did when it moved from Battersea in 1970?

    The implication of Mr Melly’s question is that it’s “his way or the highway”. To be honest we’d like to use the highways but they’re full!

    Mt Melly’s letter clearly demonstrates that the university is abusing its position and seeking to stray from its remit. We welcome the university’s progression as a seat of learning and fully recognise the benefits to the local community, however, we take objection to the university unilaterally redrawing the town boundaries purely for the purposes of profiteering.

  3. Neville Bryan Reply

    January 14, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    In response to Mr Melly, yes the university does indeed make a contribution.

    16,200 jobs equates to 16,200 cars clogging our roads, because there is no effective planning of infrastructure.

    5000+ students, graduates and post graduates, who cannot be situated on the campus as the university has not not yet built the volume of quality accommodation they need, together equates to removing housing needed by local residents.

    You have the space on campus, outside green belt, to build this accommodation, so I am really looking forward to the positive contribution the university could make to meeting the needs of Guildford’s Local Plan, without affecting the green belt in any way.

    And I’m really looking forward to hearing how the university can get back up to speed on student accommodation provision and helping out GBC by providing the land outside green belt you already have. If this is done correctly it could really help the council and the Local Plan.

    As Sue Sturgeon said a few weeks ago, on The Dragon, GBC have a moral duty to help. For me that applies to the university too. Sue Sturgeon has committed GBC to make sure they do the right thing for the community so it is now over to them.

  4. Martin Dowland Reply

    February 20, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    The University is contributing, but do we really need it? Should such an ambitious establishment really be trying to squeeze more and more out of a town such as this, a breathe of fresh air, space, woodland and views. for those escaping from London?
    The answer could be yes, if it adopted a Surrey friendly policy.
    Preserving the architectural assets of the centre is one thing. But it is the gap town between the ridges of the North Downs, the views and proximity to Gertrude Jekyll’s Surrey that those who do not see need to recognise.
    Guildford is a lung for London. It is not the Greater London Metropolitan Borough of Guildford.
    Using its assets more wisely than is proposed and recently squandered, the University of Surrey could become a friendly force locally, by moving away from the overbearing force it is now.

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