Uni­ver­sity set for huge cash boost


Manchester Evening News - - FRONT PAGE - By JEN­NIFER WIL­LIAMS jen­nifer.wil­[email protected] @JenWil­liamsMEN

THE gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to plough ‘very large amounts of cash’ into Manch­ester Uni­ver­sity, it is un­der­stood, amid signs of ten­sions within White­hall over how to boost skills in the north.

The M.E.N. un­der­stands Boris Johnson in­tends to put ‘sig­nif­i­cant’ in­vest­ment into ex­ist­ing north­ern uni­ver­si­ties rather than cre­at­ing a so-called ‘MIT for the north’ – a plan for a brand new sci­ence in­sti­tute backed by north­ern pow­er­house min­is­ter Jake Berry mod­elled on the world-lead­ing Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Bos­ton.

Chief Num­ber 10 ad­viser Do­minic Cum­mings is said to be scep­ti­cal of that plan, hav­ing in­stead or­dered civil ser­vants to draw up plans for con­sid­er­able cash in­vest­ment into Manch­ester Uni­ver­sity and other ex­ist­ing north­ern in­sti­tu­tions, in Manch­ester’s case a move likely to be par­tic­u­larly fo­cused on maths and sci­ence. It is un­clear how much money would come Manch­ester’s way, but the gov­ern­ment had promised to dou­ble re­search and de­vel­op­ment fund­ing na­tion­ally in the Tory man­i­festo – prompt­ing city coun­cil leader Sir Richard Leese to call after the elec­tion for that to be more evenly spread and not just ‘swal­lowed up by Ox­ford, Cam­bridge and Lon­don.’

News that Num­ber 10 may agree with that view fol­lows re­ports over Christ­mas that Jake Berry, min­is­ter for the north­ern pow­er­house, has been driv­ing plans for a so-called ‘su­per-col­lege’ in the north mod­elled on MIT in Bos­ton.

He had told the Sun­day Times that MIT pro­vides a ‘sig­nif­i­cant boost’ to the re­gional econ­omy in which it sits and that he hoped to see a sim­i­lar ‘world lead­ing in­sti­tu­tion in the north to ri­val Ox­ford and Cam­bridge.’

But in early signs of a power strug­gle within gov­ern­ment over north­ern pol­icy, Num­ber 10 sources said that was not the view of Do­minic Cum­mings, Boris Johnson’s chief pol­icy ad­viser.

He is said to be ‘deeply scep­ti­cal’ of the idea, ar­gu­ing that a new in­sti­tu­tion would take years to es­tab­lish.

In­stead Cum­mings is said to have or­dered plans to be drawn up for con­sid­er­able in­vest­ment into ex­ist­ing uni­ver­si­ties such as Manch­ester – which has al­ready ben­e­fited from new in­sti­tu­tions fo­cused on graphene re­search un­der George Os­borne’s orig­i­nal ‘north­ern pow­er­house’ pol­icy.

The fo­cus on north­ern skills in­vest­ment comes amid a grow­ing clam­our for a boost in that area in or­der to al­low the re­gion’s econ­omy to punch its weight, a move also called for by the Power up the North cam­paign launched jointly by north­ern news­pa­pers ear­lier this year.

It also comes as the Con­ser­va­tives seek to ce­ment their vic­to­ries in north­ern seats – and as re­ports sug­gest Num­ber 10 is look­ing to tighten its grip on gov­ern­ment pol­icy de­vel­op­ment in the new year.

Manch­ester Uni­ver­sity could be given a ‘very large’ cash boost by the gov­ern­ment

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