Bradford University: Remaining Relevant In A Changing World

Widely acknowledged as an authority on materials manufacturing, Brian Cantor is now heading the University of Bradford as its vice chancellor. Emanuel Sarfraz got in touch with him to find out if Bradford still has what it takes to thrive in the global educational landscape. 

Brian Cantor is the vice chancellor of University of Bradford. In a career that spans several decades, Cantor has served as the vice chancellor of University of York, as a professor of Materials and Head of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at University of Oxford, and as a research scientist and engineer at GE Corporate Research Labs in the US.  He is widely acknowledged and respected as an authority on materials manufacturing. He has also been the vice-president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and was awarded a CBE for services to higher education in the 2013 New Year’s Honours. In an exclusive interview with the Academia Magazine, Cantor shed light on changing facets of education across the globe and why University of Bradford is ready to embrace that change. Commenting on the demand for education, Cantor said the urge of the people to get highly educated was only getting stronger. “The huge global demand for higher education continues – the world student population is 100 million and growing at a rate of 6% per annual. The world market for research is valued at $1.5 trillion and is also growing at a similar rate of 6% per annum. The world’s economy is knowledge-based (i.e. dependent on the exploitation of knowledge) with a global market in information and technology.”

Stairs To Success

The Bradford VC said universities remained the key to economic success of nations. “Universities are key to the economic success of countries (in simple terms as providers of knowledge and graduates). UK’s higher education sector is world leading and UK’s universities, as key motors of economic, social and technological development, have a vital role to play in creating a successful, dynamic and internationally competitive post-exit UK,” Brian said while responding to a query about growth and development of universities in general, and UK in particular as it stares Brexit in the face. “Universities are central to driving inclusive economic growth locally, regionally and nationally; improving productivity as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy; and strengthening international trade and diplomatic relationships across Europe and the wider world,” he added. Asked what made University of Bradford so special, Cantor said as a world leading technology university, Bradford was focused on forging global partnerships and was keen on building new collaborations to support its teaching and research activities.

“There are over 2,000 overseas students in Bradford. The university has 130,000 alumni from 170 countries who are working in every country worldwide. The University of Bradford has teaching and research collaborations with 100s institutions worldwide. We have founded World Technology Universities Network and held 1st World Technology Universities Congresses in Bradford in 2016 & 2017. The University of Bradford has 1,100 Pakistani alumni and 150 current students. We have collaborations with many Pakistani institutions and we lent a hand in founding Namal College.”

Branching Out

“Of late, a delegation from the University and the city of Bradford visited Pakistan in a bid to boost ties with the region. The trip was an opportunity to strengthen some of our existing links and also to develop some new partnerships, which would benefit not only the University but the city as a whole.” Cantor said the trip had been an “overwhelming success” and had generated many exciting new opportunities, “which were already being followed up at both an institutional and faculty level”. Offering details of the Pakistan visit, Cantor said the delegation was made up of 14 people, “plus Naz Shah, our local MP, who joined the group in Lahore. In the space of seven days we visited various places and institutions in Islamabad and Lahore, hosting a series of ‘Destination Bradford’ dinners, alongside alumni and recruitment events”.

“In Islamabad, our visits included meetings with Higher Education Commission, the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National University of Sciences and Technology, and the Institute of Space Technology. In Lahore we met with groups of alumni and current applicants, as well as other key stakeholders and HE partners, during visits to institutions such as the University of Lahore, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Government College University and Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center,” the Bradford vice chancellor said.

 “With 50 years of academic excellence behind us as a University, we have continued to grow our international reputation and course provision. We have always been pioneers in developing new course subjects, reflecting and anticipating the needs of employers, our students, and of society as a whole. Bradford was the first university outside London to offer part-time degree courses, and our courses are designed in response to the changing business, social, scientific and environmental landscape,” he added. “From the first modern business school, which has an international reputation, to the first Peace Studies degree, we continue to offer relevant, practical and useful learning for all our students,” Cantor said while elaborating on the University of Bradford’s spirit of innovation. 


As a world leading technology university, Bradford is focused on forging global partnerships and keen on building new collaborations to support its teaching and research activities.


“Today our association with employers have expanded across the globe. Our collaborations range from associations with local employers through our employer engagement initiatives, to overseas partnerships including those in Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Pakistan and India,” he explained. “About 96% of our research and innovation has been deemed world-leading, internationally excellent or internationally recognized, putting the university 49th in the UK.”  There is no doubt that Bradford is now a more popular choice than ever for students who want to give their career the best possible start in an age that requires constant improvement on part of universities. With many global institutions scampering to remain relevant in technology-fueled global educational space, Bradford’s tradition of innovation and scholarship are certain to keep it head and shoulders above its peers for years to come.

Emanuel Sarfraz is Magazine Editor of Academia Magazine. He has over two decades of experience in journalism and has worked at top slots in different national and international newspapers . He can be reached at managing and on twitter @EmanuelSarfraz.