Universities’ contributions to the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer are in the spotlight as part of the third annual Universities’ Week.
The event, organised by Universities UK and British Universities & Colleges Sport (Bucs), aims to highlight universities’ contributions to the economy and wider society.
This year, to celebrate the sector’s support for London 2012, UUK and Bucs have released Talking Heads, a series of videos in which members of Team GB discuss how higher education has helped them to achieve their sporting goals.
A separate report released by UUK and Bucs reveals that British medal winners of the past 20 years were twice as likely as the population as a whole to have gone to university.
Looking forward to this year’s games, the document says that more than 90 per cent of the country’s higher education institutions are either already involved in or are planning to be involved in the Olympics.
This work includes international projects such as the University of Bristol’s link-up with Kenya. Staff and students from Bristol and from the University of the West of England participated in the project, which involved coach and athlete exchanges between the two communities as well as a four-week volunteering expedition to build and improve sports facilities for young athletes in the African country.
The report also refers to the many UK institutions that will serve as bases for Olympic athletes preparing for the games. This group of more than 30 includes Loughborough University, which will host the Japanese Olympic team, Cardiff University, which will welcome athletes from South Africa, and Durham University, which has had a relationship with Sri Lanka’s athletes since the devastating tsunami of 2004.
Peter Warburton, director of sport at Durham, said that his institution was already working with local schools as part of the deal under which Sri Lankan athletes will train at the institution.
“We’re keen to promote [the notion] that the 2012 Games don’t just belong to London,” he said.
In addition to the universities hosting teams, four institutions – Newcastle University, Cardiff University, the University of Warwick and the University of Strathclyde – have been designated official Olympic training venues.
David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said: “Higher education is always at the cutting edge of human endeavour, driving forward knowledge, skills and achievements. Universities Week gives us a chance to celebrate this.”