This is the first of a five part series looking at the Civic University agenda and the role that localised Labour Market Insight can play in helping institutions achieve their aims.
In an era of globalisation, where most universities take in large numbers of international students and many seek to have a worldwide reach, it seems somewhat ironic that the concept of the civic university is once again being talked about. Yet it is at least partly because of some of the challenges brought about by globalisation that this concept has been revived in recent years.
In many areas of the country — notably those where growth is stagnant, productivity is low, and unemployment is high — the spoils of globalisation can often seem very distant, and consequently the university in such a region that boasts of its international credentials can come across as somewhat aloof. Its students come and its students go, and yet the impact it has on the local area seems to be minimal. It is therefore not entirely unsurprising that many people in such areas question its value to the community.
Whilst undoubtedly most acute in some of the more deprived areas of the country, these concerns are something that all universities should be taking seriously. Each university occupies a specific location, a particular place, and therefore along with the national and international reach it may have, should be looking to play a pivotal part in the life of that community. Of course, this already happens to some extent, but far too often it is an incidental, rather than a deliberate, impact. What is needed is for universities to think far more consciously about how they impact their local community, and what more they can be doing. This includes rethinking their role and responsibilities towards their region. It includes understanding how they currently benefit the community in which they are located, and how they can improve and increase these benefits. And it includes being far more deliberate in their engagement with local stakeholders to explore new ways of working together to harness the knowledge and expertise the university has to drive innovation, close skills gaps, improve productivity, and help their area to thrive.
This is where civic university agreements come in. By moving the relationship of universities to their areas beyond that of incidental civic engagement to something far more deliberate and “truly civic”, they can become far more actively engaged with their community, building a strong sense of place and purpose, and helping to solve numerous regional challenges. As the Office for Students has recognised:
“Civic university agreements have the potential to have a positive impact on access to and outcomes from higher education, while also helping local communities and businesses.”
Yet this still leaves the question of how universities can achieve this. Whilst there are of course many different aspects to this question, the purpose of this short series is to look at the economic side things, showing how your university can quantify its current contribution to the regional economy, how this can then be improved by better understanding your area’s unique industry and skills needs, and how this can then be used to inform employer engagement, portfolio planning and graduate employability. We hope that it will prove useful and will help inform your institution’s thinking as it seeks to embrace the civic agenda.
Look out for part two of this series later this week. If you would like to discuss how our LMI can help your university in its drive to be a truly Civic University, get in touch.