Friday 15 February 2019
Coventry University is set to formalise its commitment to improving the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of Barking and Dagenham and the surrounding area.
Coventry University, which has its CU London campus based at the former Civic Centre in Dagenham, has joined 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.
Over the last year, the UPP Foundation has been seeking views up and down the country on the role of universities in their towns and cities.
Coventry University played an active role in the Commission’s review, submitting examples of its civic activity at its sites in Coventry, Scarborough and London.
In Barking and Dagenham, this has included welcoming local organisations such as Barking & Dagenham School Improvement Partnership and Future Youth Zone, the sponsorship of Dagenham & Redbridge FC and supporting community and charity events such as the Mayor’s Civic Dinner.
CU London has also worked extensively with local businesses and Barking and Dagenham Council to develop fruitful working relationships, and many of its students take part in placements, providing support to organisations such as Healthwatch and St Lukes Hospice as well as schools across the area including William Bellamy and Henry Green Primary Schools.
While acknowledging Coventry University’s public good alongside other examples from across the higher education sector, the Commission is keen to encourage a more joined up approach around civic activity to make sure this is more closely aligned with the needs of the communities with whom universities share their place.
The report goes on to warn that cuts in the resources available to universities may have a detrimental effect on the work being done in this area and recommends that the government needs to fundamentally review policies to support further civic engagement by universities.
Since we opened our doors in September 2017, we have strived to make a difference in our community through business engagement, working with schools and social enterprises and creating opportunities for local people.
We take pride in the strides we have made so far and welcome the recommendation from the Civic University Commission calling on universities to formalise their commitment to local communities.
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.
It is not just people outside university grounds who will benefit. Universities are under unprecedented challenge and need to find a broader base of support. Universities need to be part of a community which is engaged, supportive and shares objectives.