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April 2021 - Warwick in top 10 percent of universities in England for public and community engagement
In March 2021, the Government published its first Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) report, placing Warwick in the top 10% of universities in England for public and community engagement and in the top 20% for working with business. We asked Professor Michael Scott, one of the directors of the Warwick Institute of Engagement (WIE), to share his thoughts on this recognition of the hard work the University is doing as part of life in Coventry, Warwickshire and the West Midlands.
Part of WIE, and Michael’s, role, is bringing different voices from across the University together, who are eager to collaborate with the public and want to discuss and involve communities in their subjects. By drawing on our experiences and in consultation with the communities we work with, we’re continually improving and evolving how best to involve the public and local communities in our work and research at Warwick.
What is the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and why does it matter?
The results of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) are a valuable way to keep track of how we’re improving. For many years individual academics and people within universities have involved the public in their work by sharing knowledge and understanding with people outside their institution. The Government increasingly recognises this important aspect of the work of universities as part of the vital role universities play within local communities.
KEF is one of the three main areas in which universities are assessed by the Government and it’s a way of measuring this discussion and communication with the public, with businesses and with communities. It focuses on the societal and economic benefits that universities and other higher education institutions deliver through the knowledge they produce.
It also enables benchmarking against other top universities in a broad range of knowledge exchange areas – including business engagement and commercialisation, public and community engagement and regional growth.
What’s Warwick doing well?
These initial results are incredibly exciting for all of us at Warwick because they recognise the impact of our hard work. We’re especially proud to be in the top 10% of leading universities for public and community engagement. Our work in partnership with local authorities, community groups, schools, colleges and businesses is making a real difference.
The results also show the value of when we turn to non-academic audiences to help turn our research into new ideas; tackling societal issues, as well as generating new intellectual property and spin-out companies. Research doesn’t just sit on a shelf, it helps build our society.
We support our neighbouring communities in other ways too. Canley is one of our closest neighbourhoods and home to many of our students and staff. Over the last few years, we’ve been working in partnership with the people of Canley to deliver the ‘Planning for Real’ process – a nationally-recognised engagement process – to help them put together an action plan for long term change in their community. We’ve worked with over 700 people and received 1,500+ suggestions on community issues and priorities. From this, we’re helping to develop projects that build resilience and empower communities. You can read more about ‘Planning for Real’ here.
But these examples are just where we are now; we want to build on the KEF results, even in the areas where we’re excelling. Now is a time to reflect on the results and consider how we improve and maintain the high quality of activities we’re undertaking. It’s hugely encouraging but there’s still more that we can do to be an active member of our community and region life.
What’s coming up for the local community to get involved in?
As a principle partner of Coventry City of Culture, which kicks off on 15 May, we’ve got lots planned for the next 12 months. We’ll be running a year-long cultural programme of events, following 12 monthly themes, which will draw to an exciting close with a festival on campus! Watch out for our programme launch over the coming weeks for more details.
The roadshow element of the programme in particular is something we’ve been really looking forward to, especially as it means getting back in front of people and hosting some face to face events, when it’s safe to do so. Many of us have missed those events – nothing beats the genuine and wonderful interactions that happen when we come together to share and discuss ideas with the public and local communities.
There’s lots of exciting things going on behind the scenes at WIE, too. Founded last year, the Institute itself is a big next step to build on the great public engagement work that we’re already doing and to help us improve further on the KEF results. For the first time in WIE, we have a dedicated hub for people across all University of Warwick departments and disciplines to come together and discuss projects, engagement work and strategise together. There are 14 learning circles and 100 Fellows of the Institute who are already getting stuck in, with the aim of a more joined up and effective approach for our engagement with communities, the region and nationally. Our next step will be to invite members of key local and regional communities to be External Fellows of the Institute, so that they can contribute to the discussions on an on-going basis.
There’s plenty coming up for the public and local community to get involved in. Details of our events for City of Culture will be announced soon, Warwick Arts Centre will reopen to the public in October after refurbishment, and construction of the new Faculty of Arts building is well under away, with lots of engagement spaces for the public – both sitting in a new arts quarter at the centre of campus.
To keep up to date with all these developments and events, make sure you’re on our WIE mailing list to hear about public events, as well as our community newsletter list for updates from across the University, building developments, community features and more. You can also contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com