Key deals show how Leeds is benefiting from university excellence: Eamon Fox

The role that successful schools and universities play in the social and economic growth of the UK’s cities should never be underestimated. The prosperity of historic university cities such as Oxford and Cambridge can be traced directly to their high-quality provision of learning and it is extremely encouraging to report that Leeds is now benefiting from the first-class education establishments in its midst.

A timely report from my firm Knight Frank confirmed that one key objective of local and national authorities in recent years has been to establish productive and mutually beneficial relationships between education, real estate and industry.

This creates a pathway from education to employment, which helps to retain talent in the regions, encourage inward investment and aid the development of innovation clusters.

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It is fair to say that the most talented individuals will only stay in the same city as their university if there are sufficient career opportunities.

Talent attraction strategies must therefore cater to the needs of the innovation economy, which prioritises creativity, entrepreneurial networks and business start-up support. This encourages existing talent to stay and new talent to arrive.

Two recent commercial property deals in which I have been involved will undoubtedly help to nurture this “sticky” environment in Leeds. The first is the decision by Leeds Trinity University to establish a city centre location at 1 Trevelyan Square to complement its campus in Horsforth as part of its strategy for growth. The University has secured a lease on the 50,000 square foot building. A city base will enable the university to work more closely with key partners to bring new opportunities for its students, contribute to the continued growth of Leeds city centre and support demand for skills.

This is a tremendously significant deal for the city of Leeds, with fresh investment linking the business and the academic sectors closely together. In the wider context, it will revitalise a key part of central Leeds and will help to transform a neglected two-acre site into a thriving community hub.

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Meanwhile a new centre of excellence for mathematics is to open next month in the old headquarters of the Leeds Building Society in the heart of the city. Leeds Mathematics School, which will focus on post-16 mathematics teaching and learning, will be based at 105 Albion Street. It will be run by The Gorse Academies Trust in a formal partnership with the University of Leeds. This is a superb deal for everyone concerned.

The city of Leeds has a wonderful reputation as a provider of first-class education from primary schools to universities and this deal emphatically underline the city’s position as a centre of educational excellence.

The case for an advanced-level mathematics school in our city is compelling. The region’s economy is the largest outside London and the UK’s largest manufacturing centre. Channel 4 have relocated here as has the new National Infrastructure Bank. The city is flourishing.

Both the new Leeds Trinity University campus in Trevelyan Square and the Leeds Mathematics School will act as beacons of excellence for the Leeds city region and will help to ensure that the vital link between education, business and the local economy is strengthened in the city in the years to come.

Eamon Fox is a partner and head of office agency and development at the Leeds office of global property consultancy Knight Frank.