Dean hails pivotal devolution moment for region

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DEVOLVED Government could be a “game-changer” for Yorkshire’s economy, the new dean of Bradford School of Management has claimed.

Professor Zahir Irani, who joined Bradford University from London’s Brunel University at the start of the year, said that an elected mayoral system for Yorkshire offered an opportunity for growth and development in the region.

Professor Irani, a graduate of Harvard University’s leadership programme and who hails from Bolton, also spoke about his aspirations to foster a new era of entrepreneurialism within the School of Management’s students and said Bradford had a unique opportunity to be a powerful player in the logistics industry.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “I think this could be a game-changer for the region and if devolved government could lead this shift we would see a societal change and a lot more growth and development.

“I think there are three areas I would like to see impacted on.

“Transport and infrastructure is one, I think it is a shame we don’t have a direct central mainline.

“If devolved Government could bring about a change there then I think that would have a big impact and productivity would see a big shift.

“The outcomes for our primary school and secondary school achievement are below what they should be. If we can improve the quality and aspiration of our students to university then business and society will see the benefit of that.

“And health, the university is very ambitious in wanting to support the national health agenda with its shortage of doctors in general.”

Professor Irani’s impressions of the economy in which he is now living and working were generally favourable, he said.

“I think Bradford is unique in many respects. It has great logistical hub opportunities that lend itself to nicely being nurtured, whether it be the expansion of the airport or big corporates that use it as a hub for their operations.

“That gives the region a great opportunity to develop and nurture. So much so I am looking to expand our existing capability in logistics and supply chain management.

“We are trying to bring some thinking together on that and allow our students to develop the capability to support what I believe is growing capacity in that area. An expansion only comes if you can fuel that expansion.”

The academic added that he considered the School of Management as having a key role when it came to fostering entrepreneurship within the academic body and that all young people would need some business skills in their future careers.

“One of the areas I am very keen to grow and not only connect with members of my faculty are areas around entrepreneurship,” he said.

“Take an area like physiotherapy. Almost certainly young people who graduate in physiotherapy are likely to become self-employed. They will need to do their own tax self-assessment, they will need to understand the difference between profit and loss, they will need to understand the legal obligation of being a sole trader.

“The days have gone of looking at academic disciplines in isolation and I think that myself and colleagues within the Schools of Management and Law have great opportunities with other faculties that perhaps traditionally we would not have engaged with.

“The growth of the gig economy will bring legal complications, the complexities of financial management, HR self assessment, whatever it might be, those kind of issues mean having those kind of entrepreneurial skills becomes more and more important.

“We as a management school have roles to play in reaching out to other faculties but also members of the community as well.

“I want to support students in terms of their knowledge and capability of start-ups. I am very aware that while we have some large recruiters in Bradford and nearby in Leeds we also have a large number of students who are self-employed that just need that inspiration.

“To develop that in the curriculum is something we are really keen to do.”

Professor Irani has plans to create an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ role in the school, saying he wants someone from the business community with experience of running large and small firms and who is looking to give something back.

“I think there is a mutual relationship opportunity there,” he said.

“I am very proud to want to be different.

“We need to be receptive to their needs and make sure that our offering is of the highest possible standard.”