The University of Northampton has signed a new agreement that seeks to strengthen and celebrate the links between higher education institutions and their communities.
Northampton 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 such as Northampton are able to support the places where they are based, to help address some of their most pressing and major problems.
These issues range from helping local business in adapt to technological change, to boosting the health of local people, improving education for school pupils and adult learners, and training and developing new civic leaders in every field from politics to the arts.
The report recognises and builds on the excellent work universities like Northampton have already carried out in these areas, working alongside councils; employers; cultural institutions, and educational bodies such as other universities, schools, and colleges.
Vice Chancellor Professor Nick Petford, said: “As a university focused on social impact, we are committed to positively contributing to Northampton’s society through impactful research, knowledge, innovation and culture. The University is leading on projects with the public, private and social sectors to develop education, health, business and cultural actives in support of town and county.
“How best to create this positive social impact was considered in all parts of the Waterside Campus development. Through the tender process, balancing cost alongside social value was a priority; with the main construction contractors signed up to key principles and performance indicators that helped deliver the greatest possible social impact as part of the construction project. We prioritised local recruitment, skills and workforce development, waste reduction and management and responsible procurement amongst others.”
Lord Kerslake, the Chair of Sheffield Hallam University, and a former Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council and the former Permanent Secretary at the Department of Communities and Local Government) 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.
“The civic universities of the Victorian era were founded as expressions of civic pride, and as a way of sharing knowledge and opportunity at a time of rapid change.
“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.”
Lord Kerslake, added: “Universities have an irreplaceable and unique role in helping their host communities thrive – and their own success is bound up with the success of the places that gave birth to them.”
Richard Brabner, director of the UPP Foundation, said: “This is an important report with concrete recommendations that all universities will want to consider. The UPP Foundation created the commission to look at what it means to be a Civic University in the 21st Century and ask local people what they wanted from their local institution.
“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 report says that the Government needs to fundamentally review policies to support further civic engagement by universities. Until the recent creation of an industrial strategy, government has for many decades been too indifferent about places within the United Kingdom – contributing to some regions falling behind.
But universities can take a vital step at this pivotal time by adopting the Commission’s idea of a Civic University Agreement setting out how they will listen to and work with local communities.
You can download the full report from the Civic Universities Commission here