As well as facilitating the sharing of best practice, the Network also provides an opportunity to bring peers together to raise the standard of civic engagement and support sector-led improvement. During year one, we will engage the sector to scope an evaluation toolkit and peer review methodology to help institutions reflect on and enhance their civic engagement activities and impact. This scoping will include considerations of existing and new metrics within the sector and the possibilities for alignment, for example with the Teaching Excellence Framework, Research Excellence Framework and Knowledge Exchange Framework. Year two would see the development of a concept for a sector-leading Civic Index, to help institutions measure and monitor their civic engagement.
Using existing sector expertise, the Network will be a conduit for identifying and working with sector leaders in specialist ‘civic’ themes who can provide shared learning opportunities, frameworks, research and insight. There is already considerable expertise and capacity within the sector in relation to both the civic agenda, and to underlying sectoral and policy agendas which have a civic dimension. In year one, the Network will start to facilitate the sharing of expert support and guidance to HEIs that better aligns existing networks and centres of expertise with civic university goals, and/or enables them to provide a clearer ‘civic lens’ on their practice.
The Network will be working with Universities UK, the NHS Confederation and other key sector bodies to develop a coordinated response to the challenges ahead. By facilitating a shared approach to the pandemic among all universities, the Network will aim to be at the leading edge of the sector’s long-term response to the economic and social challenges presented by Coronavirus.
The Network’s partnership approach with targeted workstreams will embed civic aspirations within institutional cultures and conversations, as well as ensure universities are increasingly recognised as a critical resource, working with government and strategic partners, to deliver effective and positive social and economic change. Through sector, system and leadership, the Network can make the civic mission central for the higher education sector.