Goldsmiths, University of London has underlined its long-standing commitment to New Cross and Lewisham by making a public pledge to work more closely with local organisations to help improve the quality of life locally.
Goldsmiths joins 30 institutions in committing to produce a Civic University Agreement that will allow local residents and institutions to hold the College accountable for its progress in engaging with Lewisham’s diverse communities.
The new agreements are a key recommendation in a report published today by the Civic University Commission set up by the UPP Foundation and chaired by the former Head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake.
The Chair of Goldsmiths’ governing Council, Dinah Caine, served as a member of the commission.
The report sets out how universities like Goldsmiths have the capability, opportunity and responsibility to support the places where they are based to solve some of their most pressing and major problems.
Selena Bolingbroke, Lead for External Relations at Goldsmiths, said: “Goldsmiths has a long history of close relationships with the local community, which of course is the place many of our staff and students call home.
“Civic engagement is already a core part of the College’s strategy for the next four years, and this further public commitment should leave no one in any doubt about how seriously we treat this aspect of our work. Naturally, we will work with local organisations to agree the wording of our own agreement, which will help define how we will continue to turn fine words into actions.”
Lord Kerslake said: “The deep economic and social changes that are happening in Britain today have, alongside Brexit, made the civic role of universities even more vital to the places they are located in.
“The civic universities of the Victorian era were founded as expressions of civic pride, and as a way of sharing knowledge and opportunity at a time of rapid change.
“We are now entering a new industrial revolution when it will be even more vital that knowledge is accessible in as many communities as possible.
“It is not just people outside university grounds who will benefit. Universities are under unprecedented challenge and need to find a broader base of support. Universities need to be part of a community which is engaged, supportive and shares objectives.”
The report was based on evidence-gathering sessions held across England. The authors also commissioned opinion polling and focus groups in cities and towns to hear from the public what they wanted from their local university.
This research discovered communities welcome opportunities to connect with universities, and there is great local pride about how universities put their area on the map.
The report says that the Government needs to fundamentally review policies to support further civic engagement by universities.
The Civic University Agreement includes four key points:
- Understanding local populations, and asking them what they want. Goldsmiths’ Centre for Community Engagement Research specialises in developing community research collaborations and the College continually reviews and updates guidance to its academics on how best to engage the local community when planning and conducting research.
- Understanding themselves and what they are able to offer. Goldsmiths is undertaking a range of work to better co-ordinate the College’s various services and facilities, to ensure that those living and working locally can more readily understand how the College can help them achieve their goals.
- Working with other local anchor institutions, businesses and community organisations to agree where the short, medium and long-term opportunities and problems lie for communities. Goldsmiths is already a key partner in North Lewisham’s Creative Enterprise Zone, and meets regularly with other ‘anchor institutions’ to discuss areas of mutual interest and co-operation.
- A clear set of priorities. Goldsmiths’ Strategic Plan for 2018-2023, published last year, includes six priorities for civic engagement for mutual benefit, agreed following extensive consultation with local organisations and community groups.
The full text of the commitment to publish Civic University Agreements can be found on the UPP Foundation website.