The Office for Students (OfS) and Research England have launched a £10m competition to boost student involvement in knowledge exchange.
Knowledge exchange – the work universities do to share their research and skills beyond the campus – strengthens the community and economy, statistics show.
In 2017/18, universities in England generated over £3.7bn from their knowledge exchange activities. Research England estimate universities helped create over 3,500 start-up and spin-off companies.
There are long-term benefits to all from focusing on developing students, as the entrepreneurs and innovators of our future
– David Sweeney, Research England
Although both the OfS and Research England know students contribute and benefit from knowledge exchange activities, the new competition aims to identify the scale and extent. It also hopes to understand how these benefits can be accessed more widely across the sector.
The joint call will support projects that address issues of equality, diversity and inclusion, and also ensure students, staff and other partners benefit from their involvement. Funded projects will be expected to collate and share evidence of what works.
Although the university regulator and funding body operate in separate areas of higher education, Nicola Dandridge, OfS’s chief executive, said the watchdog was “committed to working collaboratively with Research England on this and other areas where research, teaching and knowledge exchange cross over”.
“The OfS wants all students to gain the skills they need to succeed in employment or further study. We also want to make sure that the pipeline of graduate talent meets the needs of employers today and tomorrow,” Ms Dandridge said.
David Sweeney, executive chair of Research England, said: “The UK has long been an international leader in policy and practice on knowledge exchange. However, we have never explicitly focused on the benefits for students and also the value that these talented people bring for economic and societal partners.
“There are long-term benefits to all from focusing on developing students, as the entrepreneurs and innovators of our future. The joint call announced today provides us with an opportunity to focus on equality, diversity and inclusion issues in knowledge exchange.”