How can your business take advantage of your local university?

By | September 28, 2017

To many businesses, universities can still look like the Ivory Tower, hard to get into and even harder to work with.

Times have changed radically and universities – particularly when it comes to their business school operations – are working harder than ever to build bridges with businesses of all types and sizes to demonstrate their impactful nature and intentions.

The strength of its universities is an essential – and perhaps underestimated – quality of the Northern Powerhouse idea. And we want our students to be working with real businesspeople with real-life issues, and to take part in activities that are based around the needs, ways of working and language of business rather than that grounded in the isolations of traditional Higher Education. This means there are more ways for owner-managers of businesses to benefit from free and subsidised projects, and get exposed to new ideas and practical expertise.

  1. Networks

You’re an expert working on the frontline with valuable insights and experience that students can learn from. There are increasingly going to be opportunities with universities to input into lectures and workshops as a guest speaker, providing real-life case studies for students to work with, offering mentoring.

At Bradford, in the Faculty of Management and Law, we’re looking to appoint an Entrepreneur in Residence, for example, someone who can contribute to the everyday workings of the school(s) and spend time with students. In return for these kinds of activities, business people can become part of the university’s network – getting to know and share thinking with the school’s network of businesses and contacts, as well as experts across the business school. It can be a powerful addition to a CV, and increases profile and clout.

  1. Meeting new talent

Being part of the university community means getting to know a range of students passing through, working in different disciplines across business and more specific technical areas, with different skills and potential. It’s an easier way to spot the people who could make a difference in your business for the future – particularly now that more graduates are looking for the greater level of variety and responsibility offered by smaller employers.

The student population is also highly diverse, international and multicultural, with all the different insights and perspectives this can add to a business operation looking at global markets.

  1. Getting new ideas and insights

Taking students on work placements is not about providing a vague level of experience and helping them develop a work ethic. These are projects set up to ensure there are specific benefits for both sides. Students can bring high levels of knowledge and skills – like the latest thinking in digital marketing, in project management – which can be brought to bear on particular business issues and challenges.

  1. Taking advantage of Degree Apprenticeships

It’s important that smaller employers, those not affected by the new apprenticeship levy introduced in April 2017, don’t overlook the opportunity presented by the 90% subsidy being offered by Government to fund apprenticeships.

The key point to bear in mind is that these are available for staff up to Master’s degree level, not just for entry-level staff. It’s a real opportunity to upskill experienced people, to develop people in areas that can have a real impact on business development, innovation and growth. But also as a fantastic retention strategy. What makes apprenticeships so important is that they are tailored both around real job roles and your business, so the work and content is geared to tackling live issues.

Another opportunity to bear in mind will be the ability of large employers (with a wages bill of over £3 million) to collaborate with members of their supply chain over apprenticeships, funding apprenticeships that help their partners – a change due to be introduced from April 2018.

  1. Exposure to research

Being involved with the university community means joining conversations and attending events that open doors – to new ideas, alternative thinking and particular R&D and emerging technologies which can be useful to your business.

Starting a network within the business school will open up opportunities for relationships across the university, technical areas and the arts and social sciences, with the chance to be involved directly or as a subject of research activity. At Bradford, we have over 5 decades of exposing businesses to our research and are proud of Making Knowledge Work.

Originally published in Business Up North.

About Zahir Irani

Professor Zahir Irani joined the University of Bradford as Dean of the Faculty of Management and Law in December 2016. Professor Irani has held several senior management positions at Brunel University London, the most recent of which being the Dean of College (Business, Arts and Social Sciences - CBASS) which he set up following an organisational restructuring from eight schools into three colleges. Prior to this role, he was seconded full-time to Whitehall, where he was a Senior Policy Advisor at the Cabinet Office during part of the coalition Government. He is however most proud of being Head of the Brunel Business School, which in 2013 was awarded the Times Higher Education Business School of the Year under his leadership. He completed a BEng (Hons) at Salford University before then accepting a research position in industry where he finished his Master’s degree by research. He has a PhD in the area of investment evaluation and undertook his leadership development at the Harvard Business School. He has an extensive list of 3 and 4 star publications in the area of information systems, Project Management and eGovernment, and significant grant income from national and international funding councils.