University of Bradford signs new Civic University Agreement to reaffirm local role

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An evening photo of Centenery Square in the centre of Bradford, featuring a water fountain and City Hall in the background.

The University of Bradford has reaffirmed its commitment to the city by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in the local community top of its list of priorities.

The University of Bradford has reaffirmed its commitment to the city by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in the local community top of its list of priorities.

Bradford joins over 50 other institutions nationally in committing to a Civic University Agreement in partnership with local government and other major institutions.

The new agreement is a key recommendation in a report published today 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 Bradford have the capability, opportunity and responsibility to support the places where they are based to solve some of their most pressing and major problems.

These issues range from helping local business in Bradford 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 aims to help universities like Bradford build on the excellent work that many of them are already carrying out in these areas, working alongside councils, employers, cultural institutions, schools and further education colleges.

Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor Elect of the University of Bradford, said: “The University of Bradford has been at the heart of Bradford since its creation over 50 years ago, and for generations before that through the educational institutions that led to its creation. We are committed to making a major contribution to the civic, economic, community and cultural prosperity of our city and its region. Successful cities have successful universities and we are determined to play our part in the future success of Bradford.”

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.

“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.

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.

“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 is 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 warns that there is a danger that any cut in the resources available to universities – for example, a reduction in student fees without the deficit being made up in funding from the Treasury - will mean that work already being done in this area – like help provided to schools and further education colleges – could be slashed.

The report was based on evidence-gathering sessions held across England. The authors also commissioned opinion polling and focus groups in cities and towns to hear from the public what they wanted from their local university.

This research discovered communities welcome opportunities to connect with universities, and there is great local pride about how universities put their hometown on the map. 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 what they will offer local communities and which major local strategic needs they will seek to address. All this needs to be based on listening to the local community.

The Civic University Agreement signed by over 50 universities includes four key points:

  • Understanding local populations, and asking them what they want. Analysis of their place and people’s priorities are essential.
  • Understanding themselves and what they are able to offer.
  • Working with other local anchor institutions, businesses and community organisations to agree where the short, medium and long-term opportunities and problems lie for communities. Linking with local authorities and other local plans, such as the local industrial strategy is particularly important.
  • A clear set of priorities. A process of agreeing clear priorities will therefore be necessary and, again, this is where collaboration and aligning resources with local authorities, LEPs (Local Economic Partnerships), NHS bodies and the like can help to identify the live issues that universities can most usefully help with.

List of signatories

  • Professor Colin Bailey, President and Principal, Queen Mary University of London 
  • Professor Graham Baldwin, Vice-Chancellor, Southampton Solent University
  • Professor Liz Barnes, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Staffordshire University 
  • Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Sunderland 
  • Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool 
  • Professor Paul Boyle CBE, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Leicester
  • Professor George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Aberdeen
  • Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Bristol
  • Professor Amanda J. Broderick, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of East London
  • Liz Bromley, Joint Acting Vice-Chancellor, University of Central Lancashire
  • Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, Vice-Chancellor and President, Brunel University
  • Professor Alec Cameron, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Aston University
  • Professor Joy Carter CBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester
  • Professor Andy Collop, Interim Vice-Chancellor, De Montfort University
  • Professor Shirley Congdon. Vice-Chancellor Elect, University of Bradford
  • Professor Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Warwick 
  • Professor Paul Croney, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Teesside University
  • Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President, Newcastle University 
  • Professor Lynn Dobbs, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, London Metropolitan University
  • Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham 
  • Professor Graham Galbraith, Vice-Chancellor, University of Portsmouth 
  • Professor Pamela Gillies CBE, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Professor David M. A. Green CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Worcester 
  • Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University 
  • Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Sheffield
  • Professor David Latchman CBE, Master, Birkbeck University of London
  • Professor John Latham, Vice-Chancellor, Coventry University 
  • Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton 
  • Professor Susan Lea, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hull
  • Professor Jane Longmore, Vice-Chancellor, University of Chichester
  • Patrick Loughrey, Warden, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Professor Helen Marshall, Vice-Chancellor, University of Salford 
  • Professor Quintin McKellar CBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire 
  • Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor, Keele University 
  • Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Derby 
  • Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice-Chancellor and President, Ulster University 
  • Professor Nick Petford, Vice-Chancellor, University of Northampton 
  • Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Plymouth 
  • Mr Andrew Rhodes, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, Swansea University
  • Professor Colin Riordan, President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University
  • Professor Mark E. Smith, Vice-Chancellor, Lancaster University 
  • Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Exeter
  • Professor Steven Spier, Vice-Chancellor, Kingston University
  • Professor Mary Stuart, Vice-Chancellor, University of Lincoln 
  • Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Sussex 
  • Professor Saul Tendler, Acting Vice-Chancellor and President, University of York
  • Professor Mike Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of Central Lancashire
  • Professor Rob Warner, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Plymouth Marjon University
  • Professor Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Nottingham 
  • Professor Steven West CBE, Vice-Chancellor, President and Chief Executive Officer, University of the West of England
  • Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Chester

Full text of the “Civic University Agreement Statement”

Universities are proud of the places and communities we share. They have shaped us, and we have shaped them. These may be towns, cities or even whole regions; often rural. Some universities have been civic institutions for over a century, others are civic institutions that have only relatively recently become universities. But, as a sector, we are united by our commitment to delivering opportunity and prosperity to the people and communities with whom we share our place.

Universities have long worked to support social mobility; drive innovation and economic growth; and support the cultural strength of our communities. However, the profound economic and social changes that are happening across Britain today has made the civic role of universities even more vital. The time is right, therefore, for us to focus and strengthen our efforts. Universities must examine, with purpose and with rigour, how we should fulfil our civic missions in the future.

That is why we fully support the recommendation in the UPP Foundation Civic University Commission to establish a new approach – a Civic University Agreement.

As signatories of this statement we are pledging our universities to develop Civic University Agreements. The agreements will better align our priorities with those of our local partners.  Alongside schools, further education colleges, local authorities, charities, the NHS, civil society and businesses large and small, we want to make sure our place thrives in the coming decades.
This is not how government has recently thought about universities. As the cost of paying for a degree has shifted towards students, so too have policy, regulation and incentives increasingly emphasised the private benefit of a degree over universities’ public good. Whichever way universities are funded, we believe the public and private benefits from higher education must be developed together.

The long-term funding settlement for our sector will inevitably impact on what we can do and the extent to which we can do it. This includes our civic role. However, within that constraint this statement is a commitment from us, as autonomous institutions, to continue to serve the educational, economic and societal interests of our communities and our place. We will continue to embed our civic responsibilities into the core of what we do; be this research, education or knowledge exchange. We hope that funders recognise and continue to support this.

We will publish our Civic University Agreements publicly. As we develop them, we will be driven by the following principles:

  1. As place-based institutions we are committed to attaching a high-priority to the economic, social, environmental, and cultural life of our local communities.
  2. Our civic role will be informed by an evidence-based analysis of the needs of our place, developed collaboratively with local partners and informed by the voice of our local community.
  3. We will collaborate with other universities and anchor institutions and form partnerships to overcome the challenges facing our local communities.
  4. With our partners, we will be clear about what we do and how we measure it, so we can say with confidence what we have achieved – and how we might do better in the future.

As Universities, we are responsible to our students and our staff, but we are also responsible to the places around us. Our Civic University Agreements will be an opportunity to set out clearly, coherent and creatively how we will fulfil that responsibility.

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