Leading Northern businessman and philanthropist John Kennedy has been announced as a key sponsor for the Educate North Conference and Awards.

He joins The Telegraph Media Group, Barclays and UMIP (University of Manchester Intellectual Property) in supporting the event, which takes place on June 3 2015 at The Hilton Hotel in Manchester.

Tickets can be obtained at www.educatethenorth.com or by contacting Rachael Snelson on 01706 828855. View the shortlist for the awards here.

Kennedy, a Papal Knight who has been showered with business and other awards throughout his career including a CBE, is to sponsor The University of the Year and New University of the Year categories at the special awards dinner.

He joins other category sponsors including Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce.

Educate North celebrates the world class institutions across the Higher Education and Further Education sectors and during the day will debate their future and opportunities and threats.

Kennedy, who will also become the first Patron of the awards, said: “I jumped at the chance to help drive this great initiative. There are some 33 universities from the west to east coast and a fantastic range of other excellent HE and FE colleges in the North.

“All need encouraging and some deserve to be recognised and rewarded by competing for one of the 17 awards on offer, we need excellence and we need world beating standards so that the Northern Powerhouse talk can become a reality.”

Kennedy founded John Kennedy Civil Engineering in the 1960s and ran it until he sold the company on to a major blue-chip firm. Subsequently he has invested his wealth in charitable and educational projects throughout the UK and the world with support for initiatives in Africa and South America.

He has also played and held roles with University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool Hope University and the University of Manchester.

Rob McLoughlin OBE, one of the founders of the Educate North Awards and Conference, added: “The idea really sprang from conversations with John about the future of the knowledge economy and these institutions, he is keen to know how they can be fired up for greater success and avoid some of the pitfalls of changing policies and funding mechanisms.

“That was the springboard to say let’s create a canvas with the Telegraph and others to debate it.

“We are honoured he is backing these two of 17 key categories and will hand the trophies to the winners. We are also pleased he will become our first Patron joining an impressive list of speakers, judges and our key advisors.”

The academic chairman of the conference is Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE, chairman of the Judges is Professor Phil Harris of the University of Chester, and Nik Miller of The Bridge Group is a key advisor.