Fiona Burbeary, senior professor of occupational therapy at Northampton, says that some of the sickest residents have already found their access to preventive health and social care severely limited.
"After the council's bankruptcy, its First for Wellbeing service, which GPs requested for all types [of community help] said that now they can only deal with the 'slightly fragile'," she says. She and her departmental colleague Deborah Hewson saw the opportunity to use the skills of his third-year students to help these vulnerable residents.
Helen Arnfield, a recent graduate, made a 12-week placement in a GP practice in her junior year. She says that the difficult situation of some patients was "really complex". "There is everything from a lovely house to a dirty and dirty room infested with mice." A person with a disability was being intimidated by local drug addicts and was too afraid to leave.
The impact of locations like Arnfield's will be long-lasting: with the guidance of the Northampton University business team, he has prepared a successful business case for his role to continue now that he has qualified. This will reduce the pressure on A & E, the police and the acute social and mental health services, and offers a model of preventive social care that other GP practices could follow.
The rest of the university staff also presents creative ways to cover some of the gaps in the services. Jacqueline Parkes, a professor of applied mental health in Northampton, is putting her department's experience and research experience to use in psychosocial support workshops twice a week for people with dementia and their caregivers. "What happens after a diagnosis [of dementia]? There is very limited help until there is a crisis," he says.
Margaret Lawes, a former midwife and health visitor who discovered she had dementia in early stage in November, says that after attending for several months her cognitive ability score has risen and feels much more positive: " We are "awakening our brains through what we are doing"
Northampton University is not the only higher education institution that hopes to help regenerate and revitalize its region, Cumbria, again the only county university, is considers a fundamental part of the council's economic strategy to ensure that it attracts trained young people and can offer them the jobs they need to stay in the area.
And, in a very different urban environment, the University of Salford has recently launched a £ 800m to 10 year plan to create a new "city district" in association with the Salford council.
Salford's deputy foreign minister, Helen Marshall, is in talks with the United Kingdom and foreign companies to bring her research and development to Salford, and hopes that industry supply chains will continue, along with skilled jobs. "We see it as a model of how we can unlock the right kind of prosperity for Salford," she says. "If you look at it that way, the community aspect lies in offering people a variety of job prospects."
A significant element of the university's extension work is to improve the aspiration of the local population to achieve higher level skills "from the age of six to the end, developing that ambition with the children". The University of Salford, he says, "has exceeded" its benchmark in terms of the number of local young people who are the first in their family to go to college.
While some universities have the firm mission to work closely with the community, Dr. Georgiana Varna, professor of planning and urbanism at the University of Newcastle, warns that "there is no secret recipe to create a university campus in a city and make sure it benefits everyone. " She says there may be drawbacks: the concentration of students in urban centers, for example, can increase housing costs and harm the local population.
Universities like Northampton are willing to do what they can for their communities. But Petford says they deserve national recognition for this broader role. "Higher education enriches society in ways that exceed the benefit for the student: lower unemployment rates, better health outcomes and higher productivity.The potential of universities to build social infrastructure is obvious, but the system must recognize it" .