Arc Universities

There has been a lot of talk about the Arc. But what do students think?

Nine students joined a panel to talk about the Arc in a series of workshops: sharing their personal vision of the future, their hopes and fears. The workshops will culminate in a webinar on Wednesday 27 April. In this article we meet the Student Panel and find out what they are passionate about and why they have got involved.


MSc Advanced Mechanical Engineering
Cranfield University 

The purpose of the panel is to come together as students and residents of the Arc, and contribute our ideas to help develop plans for the future. I saw it as a unique chance to do something different – something with great meaning and even greater impact.

The Student Panel is a prime example of how our visions can be made a reality. By bringing students together and letting us explore ideas and solutions, those in power can tailor plans, policies and acts, embedding our vision in these changes for the future.

MSc Business Analytics
University of Northampton

I believe we can create an attractive and simplified smart city framework which is sufficiently friendly to the environment in a sustainable manner. It should have affordable housing, efficient public transport, schools for all ages to support the young families, all within a very green zone.

We can make this vision a reality by:

Being realistic about expectations with set timelines.

Ensuring that discussions and agreements are being implemented not more than 6 months after conclusion to avoid a change in government and policies that could kill the project.

Create a public-private partnership which brings the private sector to the table with commitments for the zone.

MSc Systems Thinking in Practice
The Open University

‘This generational plan will unlock the long-term potential of the region, transforming the Arc into a world-class place to live and work sustainably’


‘An ambitious plan to unleash the economic and cultural potential of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, to transform it into one of the world’s premier growth corridors and a world-leader in sustainability.

These are bold and ambitious statements from a UK Gov press release in 2021, and I will do my best to play my part, no matter how small, in providing clarity around how these may materialise. However, it is important to explore what growth means. Used as freely as this without context certainly makes me nervous. Growth in support of what outcome? For the sake of just growing? What is wrong with remaining as-is but doing as-is better. And growth to the detriment of who, what, or where? I admit I am biased in some of my thinking, for example I am against further encroachment into the countryside and judge that building opportunities should make use of existing brown sites or redevelop existing housing. 

DPhil (PhD) in the Department of Geography and the Environment with the Oxford Programme for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (OPSIS)
University of Oxford

I got involved with the Student Panel because I’m passionate about how we ensure that infrastructure development truly helps communities—especially when promoting green and resilient growth.

I believe that communities should have a say in their local development and as a new resident to the area, I wanted to take the opportunity to learn about the projects that are taking place here and support or inform on them where my expertise is useful. I care about building resilient and sustainable infrastructure that can support diverse communities and societies in the face of shifting climate.

MSc Sustainability
Anglia Ruskin University

Being part of the panel gives me the opportunity to learn about, discuss, critique and shape the future of the Arc and express my hopes, fears and ideas for the future. As part of the project, I will be blogging around social and environmental justice, mitigation, and adaptation. Other highlights of being on the panel so far include learning some simple video making techniques, the opportunity to meet fellow students from a wide range of disciplines from across the Arc and participate in workshops with leaders and innovators from a wide range of fields.

I am passionate about building resilient and truly sustainable communities. We underestimate at our peril the challenges humanity is already facing linked to the climate and ecological emergency, and the scale of change that is required to mitigate the worst of the climate crisis, restore nature, biodiversity and soils, and provide for our future needs whilst respecting and protecting the planetary boundaries on which healthy human life depends.  We need transformative, visionary change and systems thinking in the way we build our infrastructure, and operate our society. Adaptation is equally important as mitigation and restoration, and should be embedded in everything we do.

PhD in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies
University of Cambridge

I want to positively impact society and saw this as an opportunity to do that. Robin Sharma once said, “The greatest leaders are carpenters of human spirits;” this quote sums up my purpose here on earth.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe that I was created to serve people and positively impact their lives. It is a bit idealistic, I know, but I’d like to change the world. I have a deep inner desire to contribute to making the world a better place, be it through academic, political, infrastructure, technological or sociological advances. 

I am passionate about Africa, global governance, education equity, intersectionality, justice and transformation, sustainable development, ethical and servant leadership and for every black person to live in TRUE freedom. Furthermore, I am purposeful about using every opportunity to gain the necessary skills, training and strategies that can be used to intervene practically and professionally in helping to reduce poverty, promote social and economic enterprise, eliminate gender disparities, promote peace and resolve community conflict, foster youth development and social integration.

PhD in entrepreneurial finance
University of Bedfordshire

I have spent the last five years in the Arc as a student and it is important to me to contribute in a meaningful way to its progress. The economy is my area of interest, mainly focusing on how we can achieve an equitable and greener Arc.

Considering the cultural difference amongst counties in the Arc, how do we ensure that some areas are not left behind while moving into a greener future. The Student Panel is giving us a platform to air our views –  implementing them would go a long way to making sure that going green benefits us all.

PhD in Sustainability by fashion
Buckinghamshire New University 

The panel brings a trilogy of rational dialogue, intelligent contemplation and innovation as a way of looking at environmentally sustainable economic growth at an individual and social level.

I am looking at this from a spiritual perspective – the integration and coherence of ‘living and non-living’ as one conscious life system; an approach to creating an ecologically sustainable society, a guiding mechanism of conscious decision making, and a fusion of social reality and the basic pattern of our lives. I call this ‘Systemic spirituality for sustainability’ and I believe it is this which should be installed to level up communities. I feel that we must explore the natural intelligence of existence, and apply the same into social reality – our behaviour, intentions, goals, design thinking, political power and relations which are essential to our social life and materialism. I am excited about how this can help contribute to generating sustainable ecological and economic value.

PhD Chemistry
University of Cambridge

Undertaking a research-based, science degree can sometimes close your mind off to the world around you, but I think the global pandemic has highlighted how we as researchers need to open our eyes to the world around us, because the work that we do is heavily influenced, determined and impacted by the environment, the economy and the people that we are surrounded by in all spheres of life. I believe that being involved in the Student Panel is of great value as it gives me the opportunity to learn, grow in knowledge and liaise with other students from different backgrounds across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. More importantly, it gives me the chance to enlighten myself as to how and why the leaders and governing bodies from various sectors make and enforce vital decisions that greatly impact the greater community and society.

Over the coming weeks, the Student Panel will be working together to discuss their thoughts and vision for the future of the Arc in the context of themes including Environment, Economy, the Future of work, Place and Community. Through a series of articles, videos and the webinar, they will share their vision for the future of the region. 

Register to attend the webinar.

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