UoN’s civic agenda – a catalyst for positive change


November 21st, 2023

Professor Jeremy Gregory, university lead for Civic Engagement, reflects on a busy period of activity delivering UoN’s civic agenda.

We have made so much progress on our civic agenda since I took on the mantle in 2021 – and we are developing our Civic Strategic Delivery Plan (SDP) into a strong vision for the future.

The civic agenda is as old as the university itself. Our benefactor Sir Jesse Boot put “civic” at the very heart of this institution: from its original name through to his vision for a city ‘built on wisdom’.

This vision is as sharp today as it was then. Our civic agenda must guide the way in which the university connects with our community.

As our new Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Knowledge Exchange, Professor Tom Rodden says: “We are not a University in Nottingham, we are the University of Nottingham.”

Whether it’s PhD researchers working on local challenges, or opening our doors to the people around us; our research must improve the lives of the people who make this city, and our campuses must enrich them.

I keep this mission front and centre of our work when chairing the Civic and Regional Committee and reporting into the University Executive Board. I aim to ensure the SDP reflects the progress made, embodies lessons learned and provides us with a framework to have a positive impact on the people, partners and places around us.

Our network of Faculty Civic Leads is part of this framework. These five ambassadors sit on the Civic and Regional Committee, bringing best practice and brilliant ideas for us to explore how we can strengthen the collective effort. They really are the eyes and ears of the civic mission – so please share your ideas, experiences and thinking with them.

We have also published our first Universities for Nottingham achievements report. The report showcases the work the partners are doing to improve our positive impact on Nottingham. There are so many more examples we can showcase from across our staff and student body, so please reach out to the Civic Affairs team to feature in the next report.

One of the UfN commitments was to establish an EDI Task Force: working with UfN partners to ensure the diversity of the communities of Nottingham are better reflected in our organisations.

Professor Katherine Linehan is leading the task force, supported by dedicated resource made possible through the Strategic Innovation Fund. 

The team is focussed on progressing the commitment on diversification, recruitment and retention and is seeking to establish an inclusive employment Charter. This builds on the important work by Professor Louise Mullany in this area.

We are delighted that the significant work on the Student Living Strategy, has come to fruition following a non-statutory public consultation in February. This pioneering plan to manage and plan for student living arrangements in Nottingham for the benefit of both students and longer-term residents has been sector-leading.

This collaboration with NTU and the City Council has been recognised by HEPI, WonkHE, and the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. The strategy is being operationalised through the establishment of a SLS Strategy Implementation Board.

As if our work on employment, social challenges and housing weren’t enough, we have also been forging ahead with our cultural impact. It will not have escaped your attention that the UfN partnership has succeeded in establishing a powerful relationship with the BBC Concert Orchestra, which will bring the orchestra to Nottingham for two ‘residency’ weeks this academic year. The weeks in residence offer a unique range of opportunities for collaboration between students, research engagement, and broadcasting.

The inaugural residency in November, for example, saw music students from UoN and NTU participating in a workshop with the Concert Orchestra and musician Seckou Keita, a world-renowned kora player, ahead of the world premiere of Seckou’s African Rhapsodies concert at the Royal Concert Hall.

Finally, we have been working closely with the partners behind the East Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority. Legislation is on track to be passed in the New Year, with a mayoral election scheduled for May. We are engaging at several levels to support a smooth and successful shift in the political decision-making of the region. This Devolution and Levelling Up agenda is influencing the funding picture. Funding bodies and Government funding rounds are increasingly focussing on ‘place-based’ programmes.

The R&I Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Team recently held a workshop to support colleagues’ capability to bid into these rounds. Contact Mike Durban Strategic Lead for Place in R&I for more information.I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last two years and I am looking forward to taking our Civic Agenda forward, continuing what Sir Jesse Boot started nearly a century ago.

What we do today, will set the course for positive change over the next 100 years. Let’s make sure we take the best of your ideas forward.

Visit our Civic Affairs pages for inspiration, information or to start the process of bringing your ideas to life.

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