In Scotland, funding and policy arrangements for universities reflect the Scottish Government’s commitment to free (no tuition fees) entry to higher education for Scottish students and the stipulations built into university outcome agreements which amongst other things require institutions to meet targets to increase the proportions of undergraduates coming from areas affected by multiple deprivation. City Deals and the need to respond to the Covid pandemic have led to enhanced co-operation between universities and civic partners, while the Scottish Parliament has provided a range of opportunities for academics to contribute as experts to committee scrutiny.
Glasgow University has developed its civic mission in partnership with the City Council, contributing its expertise to economic development through the Commission for Economic Growth, chaired by the Principal and the climate emergency through Glasgow Green, its climate change strategy and action plan which details interventions the university is making on- and off-campus and its engagement on the £10 Million Gallant project, The Glasgow Riverside Innovation District links major investments being made by the University on its main campus with the regeneration of one of the most deprived areas of the city, taking advantage of Glasgow city deal infrastructure works including a new pedestrian bridge linking the north and south of the Clyde near the mouth of the Kelvin and the Govan location of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, one of the largest and most modern hospitals in Europe. Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities are working together to take forward an Innovation Accelerator which the UK government announced in the recent levelling up White Paper and in advancing the city-region economic strategy
The University of Glasgow has been closely involved in helping national and local government respond to Covid, setting up testing facilities, identifying the worst affected population groups and working with voluntary sector organisations, as well as with the City Council, to develop innovative support structures. Other strands of activity include work with the culture industry and arts institutions in the city, with the community planning partnership and in taking forward efforts within the city region to increase attainment levels e.g. through the Network for Social and Education Equity, improve population health e.g. through the Deep End project and tackle child poverty. A distinctive aspect of Glasgow’s approach has been the engagement and involvement of students in civic activity, much of it through projects managed by students themselves such as the Trusty Paws project which caters for the companion dogs of homeless people and DigiGallus Connect which helps connect older and vulnerable people to digital services, tackling exclusion and helping improve digital literacy.
The University of Edinburgh was established in 1583 by Edinburgh’s Town Council on a civic foundation. As such, we have always placed special importance on our relationship with the City, the wider region and its various communities. This is exemplified today through the University’s Strategy 2030, which puts social and civic responsibility at the forefront of our ambitions, and through the 32 commitments made in our Community Plan.
Civic engagement infuses core University agendas of research and innovation, life-long education and external engagement. It ranges from large-scale strategic initiatives (such as the University’s commitments to the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, predicated on data driven innovation in support of inclusive economic growth and community benefit), to staff and student-led projects (as for example Prescribe Culture, run through the University’s Museums, using cultural engagement to support well-being amongst groups at risk of exclusion, the student-led All4Paws veterinary service for the companion animals of people who are homeless, and the Free Legal Advice Service provided by students on the Diploma in Legal Practice), to community grant giving, support for volunteering and much more.
Fundamental to our approach is an emphasis on collaboration and co-production. Examples here include: the Data and Design Lab at the Edinburgh Futures Institute; the co-creative challenge-led approach developed by the UNICEF Data Collaborative for Children (a collaboration between the University, UNICEF and the Scottish Government); the newly established Binks Hub (which will work with communities to co-produce a programme of research and knowledge exchange that aims to promote social justice, relational research methods and human flourishing) and our Centre for Homelessness and Inclusion Health (a collaboration between the University and local partners supporting the health and well-being of people who experience homelessness) .
Engagement with the various Edinburgh Festivals is also integral to our civic commitments, with close involvement in the International Festival (recent examples include the Heart and Home Project in 2021 connecting local communities to explore the meaning of home, You are Here’s focus on place-making in 2019 and Refuge in 2022), the Book Festival (which is now hosted in the University), the Edinburgh Fringe (as for example the annual Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, a collaboration across all four Universities in Edinburgh) and the Science Festival (which this year includes University led workshops for children on building vaccines, a guide to the mathematics of pizza and activities exploring good and bad bacteria, as well as exhibitions where Design Informatics masters students explore personal, local and global reliance on data through interactive installations).
Finally, we strongly value our collaboration with the University of Glasgow on a variety of community facing initiatives, including strengthening our commitment to widening participation, through our work with IntoUniversity and associated campuses in Craigmillar (Edinburgh) and Maryhill (Glasgow); as well as joint supervision of doctoral students which include projects on urban regeneration and design, and an evolving collaboration on public policy engagement.