Staffordshire among 30 universities to sign new “Civic University Agreement” to reaffirm local role
The deep economic and social changes that are happening in Britain today have, alongside Brexit, made the civic role of universities even more vital to the places they are located in. We are now entering a new industrial revolution when it will be even more vital that knowledge is accessible in as many communities as possible.
Staffordshire University has reaffirmed its commitment to the city, county and region, pledging to play a leading role in improving the regional economy and enhancing quality of life in the local communities.
Staffordshire University joins 30 other institutions in committing to produce a “Civic University Agreement” in partnership with local government and other major institutions.
The new agreement is a key recommendation in a report published by the Civic University Commission set up by the UPP Foundation and chaired by the former Head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake.
The report sets out how universities like Staffordshire have the capability, opportunity and responsibility to support the places where they are based, through working in partnerships to solve some of the most pressing social and economic challenges.
Staffordshire University is strongly committed to helping local businesses adapt to technological change; supporting the development of higher level skills in industry and business; improving the health and wellbeing of local people; improving education for school pupils and adult learners; and training and developing new civic leaders in every field of public life.
Professor Liz Barnes, Vice Chancellor of Staffordshire University, said: “As a Connected University our role at the heart of our communities, supporting quality of life and economic growth, is fundamental to our institution and the wider region. Our civic contribution builds on the value we give to students, supporting Staffordshire to be a great place to live, work and study.”
Lord Kerslake said: “The deep economic and social changes that are happening in Britain today have, alongside Brexit, made the civic role of universities even more vital to the places they are located in. We are now entering a new industrial revolution when it will be even more vital that knowledge is accessible in as many communities as possible.”
Richard Brabner, director of the UPP Foundation, said: “Universities have the ability to make a real difference to the places they are located in through reinvigorating their civic role. But this is not just a responsibility, it’s also an opportunity.
“We know that many universities want to build engagement with the community around them. It’s excellent news that such an impressive list of institutions has already signed up and the UPP Foundation strongly endorses the report’s findings.”
The Civic University Agreement signed by 30 universities includes four key points:
- Understanding local populations and asking them what they want.
- Universities understanding what they are able to offer.
- Working with other local anchor institutions, businesses and community organisations to agree short, medium and long-term opportunities and where problems lie for communities. Linking with local authorities and other local plans, such as the local industrial strategy is particularly important.
- Having a clear set of shared priorities for civic engagement.
Step up to HE – Local civic impact case study
Staffordshire University believes that all people should have access to higher education. The benefits of engaging with harder-to-reach communities are far-reaching, not only for the individual but for wider society too. As such, maximising the success of those who may not traditionally consider higher education sits firmly within our strategic ambition of becoming ‘The Connected University’.
The ‘Step Up to HE’ course is innovative and inspiring in its mechanisms of outreach support, formulated through our close partnerships. Positive relationships with local charities such as the YMCA North Staffordshire have seen the creation of a new Education Zone. This area at the YMCA works to engage and break down barriers helping to normalise the concept of accessing university study. Through the provision of a specifically designed course, alongside practical and responsive support, we have successfully enabled learners from the YMCA to progress onto undergraduate degrees developing the skills, confidence and life chances of some of our city’s most disadvantaged people.
Our joined-up approach towards widening access has inspired the generosity of one of our donors, the Bertarelli Foundation. As a support for the financial challenges of going to university, the Foundation has gifted 33 bursaries of £1,500. These bursaries are targeted at supporting learners who have entered their degree through non-traditional routes such as ‘Step Up’ and ‘Access to HE’.