Exploring the benefits of partnership and collaboration in HE

23rd January 2014

The last of a series of conferences examining the benefits of partnership and collaboration in higher education between providers, institutional partners, employers and communities took place at the University of the West of England on 23 January.

The conference explored the growing agenda around public engagement for HEIs and made connections with other key areas, such as mature and flexible access and widening participation. Key speakers included Professor Steve West, University of the West of England, Professor John Storan, University of East London, Paul Manners, Director of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Professor Les Ebdon CBE, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education and Professor Fred Robinson, Durham University.

Delegates had the chance to learn about and share some of the best practice in the sector, explore the responsibilities of HEIs and consider the possible challenges. Jointly organised by NIACE, Action on Access, the Forum for Access and Continuing Education, and the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning, the conference also supported delegates to develop an action plan to improve institutional engagement with their communities.

Paul Stanistreet, NIACE’s Lead on Higher Education Policy, said:

“For too long, universities’ so-called’ third mission’ to engage with their communities has been, at best, a marginal dimension of the work of higher education institutions. This has begun to change, with many institutions now finding a place for community engagement in their mission statements and, increasingly, seeking to embed best practice in engagement throughout their core activities of teaching and learning. It’s an exciting time for the agenda which is why we are delighted that this conference is being hosted by the University of the West of England, an institution which has taken a lead in developing some innovative and enterprising approaches to engaging with local communities. UWE exemplifies some of the best practice in the sector, but the wider picture remains mixed.

“We hope this conference will contribute to the further development of this agenda, bringing together a wide range of colleagues from higher education with experts, providers, and other collaborators from the public, private and community sectors. At NIACE we have long argued that HEIs are key public bodies with important civic duties to wider society. Discussing what precisely this entails is timely and necessary, if the potential of HEIs as key civic and community partners is to be realised and community engagement is to become one of the guiding principles of HEI activity.”