The University of Portsmouth 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 joins 30 other institutions from across the UK 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.
The report sets out how universities like Portsmouth 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 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 Portsmouth 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.
The report highlights the University’s strong package of programmes to work with local schools to improve widening participation and attainment, including:
- Step UP – A series of projects for students in secondary schools pre 16 focusing on attainment raising.
- Move UP – specific in school events for Y10 an dY11 students encouraging them to think about post 16 participation.
- Aim UP – campus based activities for pre 16 students focused on Widening Participation and providing an insight into student and academic life at university.
The report also referenced the University’s partnership with the football club as an example of how universities can lead initiatives with a greater impact on the life chances of students and graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Professor Graham Galbraith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, said: “Our University is extremely proud of the role we play in the economic and cultural life of this great city and we are determined to do our part to ensure that the city and region have a successful future.
We already do a great deal, not least our partnership with Portsmouth Football Club, but the report’s recommendations give us the basis for discussion with partners for what else might be possible.
I believe that it is vital to the University and city that we play a role in raising aspirations and attainment in schools. We are in a region where participation in higher education is low. In the city, about two in ten 18-year-olds apply to higher education – and in some wards it is as low as one in ten. Nationally the figure is more than one in three and in places like Richmond Park as many as two in three 18-year-olds apply to university.
I simply do not believe that young people from more privileged parts of the country have more potential than young people in Portsmouth and if we do not reduce this disparity we will be letting our young people down.”
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.
It is not just people outside university grounds who will benefit. Universities are facing an 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.”
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.
The Civic University Agreement, signed by 30 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.