Last week we brought together the Advisory Group for our Civic University Agreement for the first time.
Advising and guiding
The Advisory Group is made up of expertise drawn from across the University. As part of our project, we wanted to draw on the experience of colleagues from across the University. The Advisory Group exists to support the development of our Civic University Agreement, providing high-level operational insight to inform the work of us as the project team, and acting as critical friends, helping to test emerging ideas.
The session was chaired by Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost Professor Bernie Morley, who opened by outlining the way in which our civic work will contribute to the emerging University strategy. He highlighted the commitment the University is making to the local region, and how the Civic University Agreement, along with the University’s local engagement strategy, is key to delivering on this.
Understanding our current civic engagement experiences
Although this event took place in the digital space as required by Covid guidelines, we still wanted to make it as engaging as possible and therefore explored the use of new techniques to get input from attendees.
The first of these was to create a digital post-it note board, on which two prompts were posted - ‘My wish is that we do...’ and ‘We make a difference by...’. Each participant was asked to add their own thoughts on these prompts using digital post-it notes, which resulted in us identifying some common themes.
Themes captured included:
- We need to join up existing work and thinking with a coherent strategy for civic engagement
- Sustainability and climate change are important issues locally and for staff/students
- Equality, diversity and inclusion must be core to our approach, empowering our staff and students to help support and create an inclusive society
- We need to improve our communications both internally and externally about our local and civic activities.
Where we should focus our efforts?
As part of its report Truly Civic, the UPP Foundation outlined how the civic engagement work of a university can speak to a number of national policy areas that universities are required to meet. These include polices that relate to access and participation, teaching and learning, research and innovation, health and wellbeing, culture, local economic development, and local government & leadership of place.
We wanted to understand what our Advisory Group thought should be a priority for the CUA project. We moved into breakout rooms to allow smaller numbers of people to discuss these areas, asking them which they felt were most and least relevant, and whether any areas were missing.
A discussion ensued regarding the relevance of each area, with more agreement on those that should be prioritised than those that might be less important. The local government and leadership of place theme was given high priority, due to the situation we find ourselves in as a result of the Covid pandemic.
It was also highlighted that while we need to play to our strengths as a University, we also need to consider the strengths of our partners and what they’re able to bring to the table. A discussion regarding the suggested partners for the Civic University Agreement resulted in a request for the project team to develop criteria for selecting partners and a way to establish which should be primary partners, and which should be stakeholders.
Evaluating our civic engagement work
Finally, we threw our last digital activity at the group - a self-assessment of our current situation using the NCCPE EDGE tool. This allowed us to ask each member of the Advisory Group to map their thoughts on where we stand in terms of our civic engagement right now and will give us a benchmark to assess our progress against in the future.
We will be providing regular updates about the progress of our Civic University Agreement here on our blog over the coming months. To be kept in the loop, please do subscribe, or sign up to our community enewsletter.
Katrina Kelly is Head of Community Engagement at the University of Bath