The feel-good factor bursting from every inch of Leicester after Leicester City’s remarkable Premier League triumph has not escaped higher education, with the football team’s success likely to rub off on the city’s universities, according to their two vice-chancellors.
“Our international undergraduate applications grew about 60 per cent [in the current cycle],” Dominic Shellard, De Montfort University’s (DMU) vice-chancellor, told Times Higher Education, adding that it would be “churlish” for him to suggest that the football club’s success had not had an impact.
Professor Shellard said the league win now meant that “everyone knows where Leicester is”, adding that it was different from the discovery of Richard III’s remains in the city, “which didn’t quite have the demographic or the global reach. It was a fantastic discovery and brilliant for the city, but football is a language everyone speaks.”
Paul Boyle, vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester – whose researchers were instrumental in unearthing the remains of Richard III underneath a Leicester car park – agreed that the city being in the “spotlight” was likely to be beneficial for his university as well.
“These stories are hugely positive and that reflects very well on the city,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong, the overriding feeling here is all about Leicester City and the football club, but let’s not forget Mark Selby won the Snooker World Championship as well. It’s global attention to a city that could probably have never dreamt of getting that much publicity.”
He added that although Leicester’s academic offer and research were the predominant reasons for strong overseas recruitment, the “fantastic product” of the Premier League, with its international reach, “certainly isn’t going to hurt”.
Professor Shellard said that De Montfort – Leicester City’s official education partner for the past four years – had agreed a new partnership with the club in December, “which is now going to take us into engagement overseas”, including opening an office in Bangkok with the support of King Power, the Thailand-based travel retail group that is run by the same owners as the club.
He said he was keen that the partnership was not “just sponsorship of a local sports club, but is multivalent. If you take the football club, we’re going to get 100 internships for our students; they’ll be working up at [Leicester City’s] King Power [Stadium] and actually in the King Power company in Thailand.
“We [also] teach the international components of Leicester City’s team English. So Shinji Okazaki, Leicester’s Japanese striker, passed his English exam three weeks ago, and we drove him to Birmingham to do that.”