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UEA to join Civic Universities Network

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is to become a member of the new national Civic Universities Network; reflecting the importance the university places on its long history of civic engagement across East Anglia, as well as the current regional partnerships underway to meet the challenge of the national emergency and future ambitions to enhance further UEA’s civic contribution as the region looks to build a strong recovery beyond the pandemic.

The new Civic Universities network was a recommendation of the Civic University Commission set up by the University Partnerships Programme (UPP) Foundation and chaired by former Head of the Civil Service, Robert Kerslake. The Civic University Commission report sets out how universities have the capability, opportunity and responsibility to further support the places where they are based to solve some of their most pressing and major problems. https://upp-foundation.org/leading-universities-pledge-commitment-to-local-communities/

The Civic University Commission has announced that a centre will be established for the new network of around 60 universities and in light of the developing Covid-19 public health emergency, the first aim of the Civic University Network will be to encourage an impactful sector response to the spread of Covid-19, while also recognising that universities will be under immense pressure in the coming weeks and months.

Last year an independent report, Connected People + Places estimated UEA made an economic output impact of £1.04 billion on the UK economy and Professor David Richardson, UEA Vice-Chancellor commented;

“UEA was born of the region and for the region and a civic agenda has been core to our mission since we were founded in 1963.  I am very proud of the contribution staff and students have been making in the current crisis and we aim to play a key role in the economic, social and cultural recovery of our region.”

As a member of the new network UEA will be developing a Civic University Agreement with key partners and this work will be led by Professor Fiona Lettice, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, who added;

 “Using our world class research and innovation expertise, we will make the civic agenda a key element in UEA’s new strategic Plan for 2020-2025.  We will continue to work closely and collaboratively with existing partners and stakeholders and to build new relationships as we test and implement solutions to a range of health, environmental, social and economic challenges for the businesses, organisations, people and communities in our region and beyond.”

UEA’s new Chair of Council Laura McGillivray, who took up her new role at the start of April, having previously been CEO of Norwich City Council, said;

“I am delighted that UEA is joining the new Civic Universities Network as I know from my previous experience in local government in Norwich the important role the university plays in the whole community.  The future of the University, the city and region are inextricably linked and there are close ties already to build on. The testing times we are facing demonstrate the value of strong civic universities more than ever and in the few weeks since I became Chair of University Council I have seen how staff and students have responded to the national emergency to the benefit of the whole region.”

UEA’s work to support the NHS during the pandemic, includes staff and students working on the frontline and in a range of different ways at the NNUH, across the Region and beyond. UEA has been working with public and private partners to produce PPE and hand sanitiser for the NHS, with over 5000 masks and over 3000 litres of hand sanitiser already produced to support the Region’s efforts to tackle the challenge we face together.

While Covid-19 is the immediate priority, UEA’s civic role encompasses a wide range of work linking with the private, public and voluntary sectors.  There are many examples of how UEA makes both social and cultural impact on our regional communities.  We work to raise the aspirations of school children in the most deprived parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, we enrich the cultural and sporting life of our communities, and UEA helps support a range of new businesses through our Enterprise Fund and Low Carbon Innovation Fund. 

UEA is working in collaboration with Norwich City Council, on the Norwich Inclusive Economy Commission project, exploring the economic issues the city is facing, the impact of potential future trends and how the Council might intervene in the economy in new ways in the future.  The project contributes towards the realisation of the Norwich 2040 City Vision, a long term vision for the city’s future.  While Gateway to Growth – Unlocking Talent in Norfolk - is an innovative project designed to unlock the talents of graduates and Norfolk’s thriving small-medium enterprises.

The new Civic University Network will be based at Sheffield Hallam University; Richard Calvert, Network Strategic lead and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Sheffield Hallam University, said;

“There has never been a time when universities’ civic role has been more important than it is now and I am very pleased that the University of East Anglia, who already play a key role in their region, are signing up to develop a Civic University Agreement. We look forward to working with them as part of the Civic University Network, and to helping ensure that we all support our communities in the best possible way over the months and years ahead.”