Welcome to the

National Civic Impact Accelerator

An ambitious initiative to generate and mobilise intelligence of what works, for whom and in what contexts; catalyse and share civic innovations; and provide universities with the framework and tools to deliver meaningful, measurable civic strategies and activities.

About the NCIA

The NCIA’s vision is to increase the connectivity, momentum, and effectiveness of the HE sector’s civic activities for local societal, economic, and environmental benefit and maximise the contribution universities can make towards addressing societal challenges and responding to policy priorities. We will do this by:

  • rapidly prioritising, generating and mobilising intelligence about place-based working
  • unlocking leadership potential and building capacity for more effective civic engagement, within and outside the HE sector
  • driving innovative practice, scaling up effective partnership working and developing shared frameworks for practical action.

The programme, funded by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will create collaboration and policy and practice innovation involving universities, local government and business groups, and the community sector to drive place-based transformations.

New! Debate Stage

Welcome to our new series of blogs amplifying the voices shaping the future of civic universities and the places they call home.

Our new NCIA Debate Stage is the platform for a range of opinions, views and commentary on the UK’s civic university movement, designed to spark dialogues that illuminate the contribution that universities and other anchor institutions can make to the places they call home, and debate solutions to the challenges they face on their journey.

The NCIA Debate Stage features insights from a diverse range of thought leaders and change-makers at the forefront of the civic university movement. While the views expressed are those of the authors and may not necessarily reflect the official position of the Civic University Network or National Civic Impact Accelerator programme, they are intended to stimulate meaningful discussions and inspire fresh perspectives on how universities can deepen their civic impact.

Do you have a civic story to tell, or an idea to maximise the impact of place-based collaboration? Get in touch to contribute to this new series!

Adam Leach, NCIA Programme Director


Icons by Oleksandr Panasovskyi from Noun Project

How well does your university resource its civic activities?

There’s growing enthusiasm for universities’ civic role, and an increasing number of university staff have ‘civic’ responsibilities. But we don’t yet have a clear picture of the resources that support this work. That’s why we’re inviting you to share your experiences and views in a new survey. Please spread the word to relevant colleagues and partners in HE institutions – thank you!

Toolkit image

Equitable Partnerships for Civic Engagement

A toolkit for civic, community and university partners (BETA version)

Universities work with a wide range of partners to make a positive difference in, with and for their local places and communities. Partnerships are essential for civic engagement – but some partnerships are more equitable than others. Queen Mary University of London is leading the NCIA’s work on equitable partnerships for civic engagement.

Sarah Gifford, Daisy Payling, Kimberley Freeman, Alison Blunt, Queen Mary University of London

A review of the economic and social value produced through funding PhD students

This report explores the extensive impacts of PhD study, from enhancing university operations to spillover benefits for society, industry, and personal development. It emphasises the civic role of universities, particularly in relation to place-based strategies and industry relationships. With over £3bn funded into PhD study in 2022/23 by UK Research and Innovation, the report highlights the significant returns for individuals, the Exchequer, and university-industry collaborations. It shares findings from a rapid evidence review on the economic and social impacts of PhDs, advocating for the importance of PhD study within a wider civic mission.

Johannes Read, Alice Pugh, George Bramley
and Rebecca Riley, City-REDI

Report: Developing the Civic University Mission
Report: A Theory of Civic Change

A Theory of Civic Change

How universities can work for the good of their places

If you’re at sea and trying to reach a destination, you don’t just need a chart. You need to understand what’s going on around you: the weather, the currents, the prevailing winds where you are at this time of year. Becoming a civic university can be a bit like that. It’s not just about where you hope to go, but how you’re going to get there, who you’re going to work with and what needs to happen along the way. That’s why we’ve produced some new resources for universities that want to develop their civic practices: a theory of civic change, and an easy-to-read FAQ that can be shared with colleagues and partners. The theory of change doesn’t say what you have to do, but it charts some of the waters you need to go through and how you might navigate them well to get the best outcomes. You can download these resources here

Julian Dobson, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), at Sheffield Hallam University

Julian Dobson

Developing the Civic University Mission

Lessons from Race Equality Initiatives in Higher Education

Femi Owolade

The civic university and anti-racist university missions are long-term abstract concepts, representing a sense of purpose, and an appropriate response to wider societal inequalities. In the context of the United Kingdom, these challenges encompass discussions regarding the value of higher education and broader societal disparities.

This paper sets out to understand the factors and systems driving race equality changes in UK universities with the overarching purpose of providing insights to facilitate the development of the civic university mission.

Femi Owolade, Research Associate at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), at Sheffield Hallam University

Report: Developing the Civic University Mission


A new series of podcasts from the National Civic Impact Accelerator, now available wherever you get your podcasts!

If you prefer, you can also watch all episodes of CiviCast on our YouTube channel, or right here:

Funded by Research England

Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in England’s universities. It distributes over £2bn to universities in England every year; works to understand their strategies, capabilities and capacity; and supports and challenges universities to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society. Research England is part of UK Research and Innovation.

I am delighted that Sheffield Hallam and our partners have been awarded this  funding to establish the National Civic Impact Accelerator.

We know through our role in leading the Civic University Network that there is growing civic leadership across the sector, and a desire for more support and collaboration to help realise universities’ civic potential.

Through this programme we aim to deliver impact beyond the sector through strengthened relationships, collaboration and greater alignment between universities and local ecosystems.

Richard Calvert, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University
I am honoured to be invited to join Sheffield Hallam University as visiting professor and to be asked to play a key role in the academic leadership and governance of the NCIA project and to act as a bridge to the ongoing Civic University Network so ably run by my new colleagues.

The launch of the NCIA comes at a critical time for local communities across the country as we face major global challenges. I believe NCIA can actively support universities play a key role in helping our communities address these challenges

Professor John Goddard OBE, Visiting Professor, Sheffield Hallam University

The Young Foundation’s Institute for Community Studies is delighted to be working with partners Sheffield Hallam and the NCCPE on the National Civic Impact Accelerator.

This timely investment will support the many organisations working to support thriving civic partnerships and places within the UK, including universities, local government and the charity and community sector, at a point where better-quality evidence, knowledge mobilisation and learning, has never been more needed.

Emily Morrison, Head of the Institute for Community Studies

The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement is delighted to be part of the NCIA. Since the early days of the Civic University Network, we have been determined to maximise the synergy between public, community and civic engagement. We look forward to working with the sector to raise our collective game in this vital area, by building the evidence base and to sharing and building on great examples of practice

Paul Manners, Co-Director of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE)

We are delighted to be working with our partners on this ambitious project to enable universities to deliver impactful civic engagement initiatives. At Queen Mary, we were pleased to launch our Civic University Agreement earlier this year, and this programme will ensure we have a strong evidence base on which to build. We know how vital it is to collaborate with local partners and across the sector and are looking forward to contributing to this work

Dr Philippa Lloyd, Vice Principal Policy and Strategic Partnerships at Queen Mary University of London

The University welcomes the opportunity to build on its civic foundations as a partner in the National Civic Impact Accelerator. It’s a great opportunity to share across the wider university sector, the partnership research experience and expertise developed through WMREDI and CityREDI in the West Midlands. We look forward to utilising the innovative approaches developed to enhance our own civic agreement as a local anchor institution

Professor Richard Black, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham

Delivery Partners

Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield Hallam University is proudly a university of place, with a long history of civic engagement. SHU has always emphasised the importance of community and plays a leading role in the national civic university movement.

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The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research

Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) is a leading UK applied policy research and evaluation centre.

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National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement

The NCCPE has a long track record of providing effective support to the sector, and to policy makers, to increase the quality and impact of their public engagement activity.

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Institute for Community Studies

The Institute for Community Studies is a new kind of research institute, focused on how end to end evidence production and knowledge exchange with local stakeholders and communities can put people and communities at the heart of finding solutions to the issues that affect them.

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West Midlands Regional Economic Development Institute

The University of Birmingham’s WMREDI is leading voice in the national civic university movement, focusing on how universities can support inclusive economic growth.

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Queen Mary University of London

Queen Mary University of London’s Centre for Public Engagement conducts sector-leading work, recognised by the award of the first NCCPE Platinum Engage Watermark. CPE’s strategic priorities include building equitable partnerships, championing the value of engaged universities and removing barriers to engagement.

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The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

The OECD’s Entrepreneurial Education, Collaboration and Engagement (EECOLE) network aims to strengthen the capacity of HEIs to collaborate with their surrounding communities and networks to promote innovation, sustainability and inclusion, in all regions.

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News & announcements

Stay updated as we launch the NCIA

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