UWE VC says universities must engage more with communities

Issue date: 01 October 2009

UWE Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England is speaking at the national launch in Bristol today [1.10.09] of a provocation entitled 'Re-Inventing the Civic University' by Professor John Goddard written for the
National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). In the paper Professor Goddard explores the vital economic and social contribution of the UK's universities and the need for them to rediscover their civic roots and reconnect with society.

Professor Steve West says, “Whilst it may be the case that some universities are just starting to rediscover their civic roots, this has not been lost at UWE. Many of our activities benefit the local community. For example, our links with over 350 schools and colleges (we began sponsoring Bristol City Academy in 2002), and our 12 partners in the UWE Federation, bring higher education opportunities closer to users. Our students are very active too, investing over 28,000 hours in volunteering activities in 2008/09.

“Civic responsibility is fundamental to our values at UWE. That means that it underpins all we do – it is not an add on when convenient. It is a guiding principle. It informs our mission, which for UWE is to make a positive difference to our students, business and society.

“This guiding principle is embedded in our strategies and practices; including for example, learning and teaching, research, sustainability, community volunteering and widening participation.

“Many of our programmes of study link directly to the needs of industry and the workplace such as Aerospace Design Engineering and Radiotherapy. We have built a large number of effective partnerships with employers and the community to enhance the student experience. These partnerships also enable us to really engage with key societal challenges in areas like planning, sustainability, and health. We are working together with our partners to identify problems and produce solutions, applying expertise from across a spectrum of disciplines.

“We are also working with partners to build their 'capacity to reach into higher education', but there are still many challenges, and we all need to do more.”

Making the most of the innovations and skills generated by our world-leading universities will be crucial to the UK's response to the recession, according to Professor John Goddard, ex-Deputy Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University. He says publicly funded universities in the UK have a duty to return to their roots and re-engage with their communities if they are to remain effective and relevant contributors to society.

Professor Goddard says, “For many years, the UK's great civic universities directly served the needs of their local and regional communities. Civic engagement should no longer be a Cinderella activity for universities. Failing to do this will be a missed opportunity that will leave the UK and its cities and regions poorer and socially worse off. A civic university should have a strong link to its local communities, taking into account local cultural attitudes, and acting as a driver of both business and social innovation.”

At today's meeting hosted by NESTA, Professor John Goddard OBE will present the provocation and then join a panel discussion with Professor Kathy Sykes, Professor of Sciences and Society (University of Bristol) and Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE to debate the role of Universities in regional social and economic growth. Stian Westlake, NESTA's Executive Director, Policy and Research will moderate.


Editors notes:

For further details about the provocation, please contact Jan Singleton at NESTA on
020 7438 2606 or jan.singleton@nesta.org.uk

Event details:
Date: Thursday, 1st October 2009

Time: 16:30 - 17:30 (Registration from 16:00, with presentations starting promptly at 16:30)

Venue: Novotel Bristol, Victoria Street, Bristol, BS1 6HY
To register for this event, please click here

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