Continued Commitment for the National Civic University Network

Across the UK, Universities have been considering their civic role. The report Truly Civic: Strengthening the connection between universities and their places  Civic University Network – UPP Foundation ( challenged universities to prioritise their civic role.  The Civic University Network was developed after this report as a UK-wide network supporting universities to maximise their civic impact in their place, and is the embodiment of the belief that universities play a pivotal role in shaping places.At its core, the Network seeks to fortify the ties between universities and their surrounding communities, fostering a collaborative environment that transcends the boundaries of academia. The University of Manchester is a member and contributor to the network.

Dr Debbie Squire, Head of Place and Civic Engagement, Sheffield Hallam University and Adam Leach, Programme Director, National Civic Impact Accelerator (NCIA), Sheffield Hallam University tell us more about the networks work:

‘Since 2020, the Civic University Network has built a groundswell movement across the UK and a platform of collaboration for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to share best practices and strengthen civic approaches. The Network has reached over 85% of HEIs in the UK and has promoted and supported the development of Civic University Agreements across the country – strategic plans agreed between universities and their place-based stakeholders.’

In its inaugural year, the flagship National Civic Impact Accelerator (NCIA) programme has made significant progress towards deepening the civic impact of the higher education sector in England. The NCIA is developing and implementing strategies for understanding, applying, and scaling civic solutions in partnership. Key impacts include the successful onboarding of 12 diverse higher education  partnerships across the UK and the formation of seven Action Learning Groups. The aim is to test new civic approaches in order to understand what works for civic engagement, for whom it works, and in what contexts. This is supported through  the launch of CiviCast, a free public podcast and blog series for debate and commentary about the UK’s civic university movement.

The impact of Civic University Network is evident both locally and nationally. Universities affiliated with the network are effecting meaningful place-based change. Nationally, the collective efforts of Network members contribute to a broader narrative of universities as agents of progress, demonstrating the societal value of higher education.

On 18 and 19 June 2024, CiviCon24 will take place at Sheffield Hallam University – a conference designed for leaders, professionals and academics navigating the civic landscape within higher education, as well as senior leaders who are driving change within their institutions. Exemplary civic initiatives will be highlighted, and universities will be provided with practical tools to develop and expand their civic approaches.