It is sixty years since the Queen’s Seal was affixed to UEA’s Royal Charter by Her Majesty Elizabeth II, giving us permission to act as a university in all its functions. Since that time, UEA has become an essential part of East Anglia’s fabric: a flourishing institution through which the region has led the world.
This Civic Charter reflects both on that last sixty years and writes a promise for the next sixty, and as the original Charter incorporated the ambition of people in the region to have a higher education institution in the City of Norwich, so this Civic Charter is the result of the sensibilities and aspirations of their descendants, literal and figurative, offered in open and honest fashion, for the future role of UEA as a civic institution with fundamental responsibility to its communities.
1 In 1963 a university was founded by the region, for the region, to be of the region. Sixty years on, The University of East Anglia has become a global destination for diverse and talented people to join and contribute to a community generating transformative knowledge that resonates to every corner of the Earth. Where we excel, we lead. Where we live, we nurture talent and possibility. And where we see need for a university to act, we rise to meet those challenges. We bring the world to East Anglia and East Anglia to the world, never losing sight of our responsibility to the people and to the place we call home.
2 East Anglia sits proudly on England’s furthest edge – a land of both tradition and possibility. Its peripherality means it is often overlooked but East Anglia’s geography is also a great strength, fortifying an independence of spirit that draws inspiration from its expansive landscapes. Agricultural heartlands hug ancient cities and towns, breath-taking coasts host an offshore industry capable of sustainably providing much of England’s power in ports that were once home to the richest of our fisheries. It is a place of particularity and distinction, with a storied history of innovation and migration. Yet it is also a place acutely threatened by an ongoing Earth crisis; rising sea levels, threatened biodiversity and degrading soils. East Anglia is home to areas of desperate inequality and increasing calls for social justice. Its challenges straddle a town and country divide, combining cultural differences, transport links and differing social and economic demands. It is a place where people choose to live, to raise families and retire to. Young people flock to our cities and towns providing energy, vibrancy and ambition, while an ageing rural population offers a deep connection to the land and its use. Since the Middle Ages, a tradition of artisanal businesses and experimental entrepreneurialism has flourished. In modern times, digital technologies mean there is untapped potential to produce national companies and international brands. It is a milieu that inspires creativity: home of England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, of great art and artists, outstanding festivals and culture.
3 UEA reflects, strengthens and serves the needs of our geography in all its complexity. It is no accident that in a region threatened by a changing climate, we are a global centre for its research. Surrounded by productive farmland, the University and the Norwich Research Park lead the world in food technology and soil science. Medical and health researchers transform the quality of life in our communities, providing an expert workforce at the cutting edge of human knowledge. We inspire global leaders in partnership with local companies. And in Norwich, the City of Stories, our methods in training creative writers have become the gold standard in teaching everywhere.
4 Our excellence in these fields is not from a vain quest for glory, but is rooted in our care for the region, its people, and our profound connection to its needs and ambitions. Physically the University is part of its landscape, nestled in parkland, in the only UK city situated in a National Park: our campus is typical of Norfolk’s pastoral beauty. We host the county’s most significant collection of art and artefacts in the Sainsbury Centre which sprawls across campus through the sculpture trail, while annually welcoming thousands of school children, presenting the world’s artistic wonders to inspire young minds. Leading the field in our understanding of landscape and place, our historians and archaeologists draw on the wealth of a region scattered with archaeological and heritage sites from the dawn of humanity to the modern era.
5 East Anglia is a place of unique combinations, and at the centre of our scholarly practice is the breaking down of silos, both social and intellectual, within the University and beyond. We represent all major disciplines, but the interdisciplinarity at the heart of UEA’s culture is exactly what is needed to meet the complexity of challenges that span global to local. Whether the challenge requires climate scientists working together with poets, archaeologists with coastal engineers, or pan-University teams coming together for a good economy: UEA is a space for convening the right partnerships to solve complex problems. Our intrinsic curiosity sometimes necessitates difficult conversations – we agitate to make positive change.
6 Over the last sixty years, the University has changed the face of the city and the region in which it sits. UEA brings a great diversity of ideas to its home, but also a diversity of people from all backgrounds, nationalities, religions, and ethnicities. We welcome international students as our own, bringing new voices and new experiences to our seminars and to our city streets. We are proud to be a University of Sanctuary, demonstrating our openness and commitment to welcoming others into our family. Many of our alumni choose to stay here afterwards contributing to the skills and knowledge the region can draw on, but many also choose to live elsewhere and create global networks with East Anglia at their heart.
a. UNIVERSITY: we will…
i. Listen to the voices of the people of East Anglia so that we can fully understand our evolving purpose in this region;
ii. Nurture our whole community: students, staff, alumni and regional citizens;
iii. Build bridges that connect the life of the University with wider society: opening our campus to all;
iv. Orientate ourselves to regional strengths and needs, including the need for a broad-based university excelling at both teaching and research;
v. Convene world-leading teams to meet complex challenges, offering our expertise to address common problems in the region and beyond;
vi. Work in partnership by preference, recognising that there is important knowledge, trained and tacit, across the region that can contribute to shared ambitions;
vii. Unlock the potential for global impact and innovation through our research and our partnership work with industry, state and community: we are a broker of new ideas, and put East Anglia on the map;
viii. Always support, sustain and celebrate the achievements of our partners, our students, and our staff.
b. SIGNATORIES: we will…
i. Maintain an honest dialogue with UEA, formally and informally, about the type of institution and activities we want from a civic university;
ii. Appreciate the variety and diversity of the institution: a complex of different ideas, practices, peoples and priorities;
iii. Look to UEA to collaborate: meet us with trust and openness, as we do the same;
iv. Support UEA’s right to open inquiry: the search for truth is a process not an outcome, we can never exhaust the possibility of enquiry and we must always be open to new evidence and the emergence of new perspectives;
v. Meet our ambition for the region, to celebrate East Anglian lives and cultures and UEA’s role in that.