Praise from Rowntree Foundation
Published 19 October 2012
The University of Brighton has been held up as an example of an institution which supports community engagement and helps disadvantaged local communities in a new report for the respected social policy research organisation the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The wide-ranging report, How can universities support disadvantaged communities, states that most universities consider community engagement to be important and that many are highly engaged in their local communities and economies. However, it says involvement is patchy and more could be done.
To show what is possible, the researchers highlight good practice around the country in areas such as links with colleges and schools in disadvantaged areas, outreach programmes and collaborative research with the community.
They said that, while most universities have a community engagement policy which makes reference to supporting disadvantaged communities, most only appear to pay lip service to it. The University of Brighton stands out, it said: "for its explicit commitment to working with disadvantaged communities". It highlighted the university's Social Engagement Strategy's commitment to prioritising: "the use of resources to facilitate work that addresses disadvantage, sustainable development, citizenship and social justice".
The report said that strategies were all very well, but what mattered was action on the ground. In a section on community-based research, it stated that many academics who were doing good work in this area were not backed up by support from their university. The University of Brighton is "relatively unusual", it said, because it takes an approach which showed "a strong and enduring institutional commitment to supporting communities" which is backed up by continuous funding from the university's central resources.
It singled out the university's Community University Partnership Programme (Cupp) for praise, in particular the Cupp Helpdesk, which it said provided a way in to the university for local community, voluntary and statutory organisations interested in research, or wanting to access university resources.
The report is based on the responses of 141 colleges and universities to questionnaires about their community engagement and visits to 30 of the institutions, including the University of Brighton.
It calls for more government funding for community engagement activities and concluded that universities need to learn from the examples of best practice and ask themselves "if they can do that why can't we?"
More information you can download the full report (792k pdf).
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Contact: Marketing and Communications, University of Brighton, 01273 643022