From market stall to University partnership – Marks & Spencer’s long association with Leeds

The University of Leeds and British retail giant Marks & Spencer have a deep-rooted partnership founded on the relocation on the company’s entire corporate archive to the campus at Leeds in 2012.

An invaluable research tool and academically assessed as one of the best business archives, the M&S Company Archive offers academics and students access to over 70,000 items, including company documents, clothing, and packaging marketing materials. Together, the collection provides a unique insight into British social and cultural attitudes since the founding of the business in 1884. The University’s partnership with M&S also provides the opportunity to work on collaborative research projects, such as investigating international franchise models and working together on ‘big data’.

The partnership also adds to Leeds students’ experiences by providing work opportunities and skills sessions and has engaged over 2000 students during 2013/14. Projects cover everything from fashion design to environmental sustainability, across both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Most recently, Leeds and M&S have joined forces to collaborate on a new online course (a Massive Open Online Course or MOOC) which will use case studies from the Company Archive alongside research from the University to show how innovation and people are key to business success.

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