A valuable education

CAMPUS SPOTLIGHT: The University of Winchester is a leading institution in the south of England, defined by a commitment to its values

Central to the city: Winchester University’s impacts

The University has grown to be an invaluable player in the city and the region as a whole. A recent report by Emsi, an economic modelling consultancy, found that the University has a £266m regional economic impact. This impact was spread across a number of areas: the University employed 748 full-time academic and support staff, 78% who live locally; as a buyer of goods and services it spent £26.4m across the region; and, with 38% of its recent graduates remaining in the region, it is estimated that the accumulated impacts of its alumni accounted for £207.3m a year – the equivalent of supporting 7,591 average wage jobs.

Of course, though valuable, an institution’s impacts cannot be measured economically alone. As Professor Joy Carter, CBE, Vice-Chancellor, said: “As a key pillar in the city and county, the University of Winchester creates value in many ways, economically, socially and culturally.” Winchester has assumed a leadership role in the local region since its foundation, contributing to social and cultural life as well as supporting the local economy through its expenditure. “The most vibrant economies are found in places that have a strong knowledge and innovation orientation,” argued Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council. It was a view echoed by Steve Brine, MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford: “As a resident, as well as the local MP, I am excited by the opportunities that the University continues to bring to the city and look forward to supporting its work.”

Values make the world go around

Part of an institution’s impact can therefore be quantified: its expenditure, its local employment, its graduate retention rates. However, a more intangible but no less important measurement must also be accounted for – what values does a university hold and broadcast? And by this measurement, the University of Winchester has ambitions to be world-leading.

The University has grown to be an invaluable player in the city and the region as a whole

It is already off to a good start. Though it was only awarded full degree-conferring powers in 2005, and thus the title University of Winchester (previously it was Winchester Training College), from the first, it has been a values-driven institution. The present institution grew out of the Winchester Diocesan Training School, which was founded in 1840 by the Church of England to provide training for elementary schoolmasters for poor communities. This commitment to making a difference, and seeing individuals and communities flourish, still informs the University: its policies are orientated around the values of compassion, individuals matter and spirituality. “We believe that academic freedom leads to big ideas, which in turn promote social justice and creativity to build a better world,” said Professor Carter. “We are ambitious and determined to be the most sustainable campus in the country, already we’re the fourth most efficient campus in the UK.”

This idealism underpins Winchester’s commitment to dramatically reducing its environmental impact. Since 2007–08, despite a 72% growth in the size of the campus, the University achieved a 45% reduction in emissions intensity. The campus estates now send none of their waste to landfill and have achieved a 100% reduction in oil consumption and a 41% reduction in water usage. The University has also invested £1.5m in energy efficiency projects since 2010. All these measures have saved the University an estimated £3.1m, proving that social responsibility can pay, and is not just useful PR.

The University also harnesses the enthusiasm and energy of staff and students alike for sustainability initiatives. The Campus Blackout Weekend, for instance, recruited teams of volunteers to take part in mass switch-offs of unnecessary lights and power sources – the initiative achieved a 19% reduction in energy use. Since 2016, the University has also embedded Climate Change Education into the curriculum, aiming to ensure that graduates leave with a solid basis of sustainability understanding, taking that awareness into their future lives. These and similar ideas work to wed the University’s foundational values to the everyday student experience, guaranteeing that reality matches rhetoric.

Idealism underpins Winchester’s commitment to dramatically reducing its environmental impact

Socially speaking

Winchester has gone a step further – the education it provides is comprehensively shaped by its values-driven approach. In 2010, it launched its Centre of Religion, Reconciliation and Peace to undertake research into peace-building and conflict resolution. So far, it has worked with the NGO Religions for Peace in Myanmar and Nepal, and its Centre Director, Dr Mark Owen, has drafted a curriculum on ‘Buddhism and Conflict Transformation’ for roll-out in secondary schools in Thailand, Myanmar and other South-East Asian countries.

The University has also inaugurated two distance-learning MAs on the cultural and sociological aspects of peace-building and reconciliation. Recent graduates of these programmes have gone on to make tangible real-world impacts, including as a Chief Advisor to the Somali Government, tasked with developing a truth and reconciliation framework. The Winchester Business School has also integrated responsible leadership into its curricula: developing responsible leaders and encouraging students to think how they will make a difference in a resource- and carbon-controlled world.

By ensuring that it retains a values-driven approach at the heart of its institution, the University of Winchester has remained true to its roots whilst growing sustainably and fortifying its graduates against an uncertain future. A valuable education indeed, then.