UCLan has recently signed a ‘Civic University Agreement’ and is the 50th UK university to do so. This follows the recent Civic University Commission Report led by Lord Kerslake for the UPP Foundation published earlier in 2019.
In the forward to the report, Lord Kerslake argues that universities can act as ‘anchor institutions’:
“As the United Kingdom grapples with the challenges of low growth, low productivity, the impact of austerity and widening spatial inequalities, universities can be (alongside local authorities and the heath sector), significant ‘anchor institutions’, able to make an enormous impact on the success of their places”.
The role of local ‘anchor institutions’ also forms a central feature of the new ‘Community Wealth Building’ strategies, of which our local ‘Preston Model’ now forms a leading example. Therefore, the re-affirmation of UCLan’s Civic University mission has added significance, given UCLan’s location as an anchor institution at the heart of the Preston Model.
However, the idea of a Civic University – and its renewal- goes back further and has many different dimensions. In 2009 John Goddard, Emeritus Professor and formerly Deputy Vice Chancellor, Newcastle University, sparked off the debate with a ‘provocation piece’ for NESTA entitled ‘Reinventing the Civic University’
. Here he argues that university leaders should: ‘introduce an institution-wide strategy for civic engagement, a strategy that reaches across teaching and research, rather than being boxed off as a third stream of activity.’
Another influential earlier text “The engaged university: international perspectives on civic engagement’ (Watson et al, 2011) discusses the modes of engaged and transdisciplinary problem-focused research that also forms the mission of the Civic university movement.
In this seminar and discussion, we will survey the growing debate on the Civic University in the context of the changing role of higher education and research institutions. Questions for discussion include: What kinds of knowledges can a Civic University (co)Produce? What does it mean to be an anchor institution in a fluid and turbulent world? What are the challenges and opportunities that come with reconstructing the civic university in the 21st Century?
Dr Eric Lybeck is Presidential Fellow at the University of Manchester and editor-in-chief of the journal, Civic Sociology. He is developing the emerging field of Critical University Studies. Dr Lybeck’s work draws on processual and civic approaches to social knowledge and practices to make new connections between the disciplines of sociology and education. His doctoral research at Cambridge explored the history of the social and legal sciences during the late 19th century transfer of university models from Germany to America.
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