Impact of Higher Education Institutions on Regional Economies: A Joint Research Initiative



Higher Education and Regional Transformation: Social and Cultural Perspectives (The HEART project)

June 2007 - May 2009

Link to this project's ESRC Award Page

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Professor John Brennan, Open University (Centre for Higher Education Research & Information)
  • Co-Investigators:
    • Professor Allan Cochrane, Open University
    • Dr Yann Lebeau, University of East Anglia
    • Ms Ruth WIlliams, Open University
  • Researchers:
    • Michael Amoah
    • Alice Bennion

What the project is about

Research into the local and regional impact of universities has tended to focus on economic factors. This project explores the relatively under-researched impacts of universities on the social and cultural lives of the communities of which they are a part, including the impact on social cohesion and inclusion, on citizenship and on the alleviation of various forms of social disadvantage.

The central question of the research is:

To what extent and in what ways do universities in practice operate to benefit or further disadvantage members of socially disadvantaged groups within their regional contexts?

In particular, the project aims to advance understanding of the role played by universities in:

  • helping to build new or strengthen existing institutions of civil society
  • encouraging and facilitating new cultural values and social cohesion
  • selecting and socialising new leaders
  • generating new possibilities for relationships between local, national and global trends and opportunities.

The project's approach

The project is adopting a case study approach and will focus on four universities/ regions. It will be conducted in two stages.

  • Stage I will focus on one university/region. It will collect information from staff and students within the university and from regional actors and residents using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods.
  • Stage II will apply the methods tested out in Stage I to a further three case study universities/regions. This will provide a wider range of institutional /regional contexts and a comparative perspective on the research questions.

Selected Project Outputs

Please see the project's ESRC page for the most up to date information and outputs

Related Themes