Contest to host Civic University Network launches

Institutions can bid for funding to host network that will drive civic university agenda, as it gains political traction

December 2, 2019

UK universities and sector bodies are being invited to bid for seed funding to host a Civic University Network, which will help institutions implement strategies to improve life in their cities and towns, as the issue rises up the higher education and political agenda.

On 2 December the UPP Foundation and Carnegie UK Trust launched a competition for a university, charity or sector body to host the Network, and will award £75,000 of funding to the successful bidder. The deadline for proposals is 22 January.

Universities’ civic duties are on the political agenda in the wake of the UPP Foundation’s recent Civic University Commission report, chaired by Lord Kerslake, former head of the UK civil service.

The recent Conservative manifesto pledged that the party would “strengthen universities and colleges’ civic role”. Rachel Wolf, the co-author of the Tory manifesto, wrote the Civic University Commission report in her role as a partner at political consultancy Public First.

One of the aims of the commission’s report was to encourage universities to think more strategically about their links with local partner institutions and to analyse local needs.

The commission resulted in the creation of Civic University Agreements (CUAs), declarations of a university’s civic priorities and a commitment to delivering them, co-signed by local partner institutions – such as NHS trusts, councils, further education colleges, or businesses. Following the report, 56 universities have now signed up to CUAs.

The planned Civic University Network “will support the growing CUA movement by sharing learning between participating universities as they develop and implement” their agreements, says the UPP Foundation.

The network, it also says, would “share best practice” and support CUA signatories by hosting events and publishing reports.

It would also “develop a peer-review model” for indicators of quality and good practice for CUA institutions.

There would be a policy and advocacy role on the civic university agenda for the network, connecting universities with other key sectors.

And the network would also need to seek further financial support, so it was sustainable and could continue to operate beyond the lifetime of the seed funding.

The panel for deciding the winning proposal will be made up of Richard Brabner, UPP Foundation director; Mary Stuart, the University of Lincoln vice-chancellor; John Goddard, emeritus professor of regional development studies at Newcastle University; Pippa Coutts, policy manager at Carnegie UK Trust; and Smita Jamdar, head of education at law firm Shakespeare Martineau.

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