Sheffield Hallam University – the institution that hosts the Civic University Network – has published a civic agreement with the South Yorkshire city and region, with expanding apprenticeships a key plank of the new strategy.
The civic university agreement is published today (Tuesday 27 July) alongside South Yorkshire mayor and local MP Dan Jarvis, who has committed £100,000 of funding to expand a Hallam school mentoring programme.
A 2019 YouGov survey of Sheffield residents commissioned by the university revealed that 39% were either very or fairly proud of Hallam – but 38% were indifferent to, and 16% unsure of, its role in the region. While nearly half of survey respondents (49%) think Hallam has a positive impact on the city, far fewer (33%) said its contribution was noticeable. Less than half (39%) think the university cares about the community.
Twenty-one per cent of survey respondents said teaching students in partnership with industry was a top priority – it was followed by providing extra support for disadvantaged students to study at university (19%) and supporting schools to improve education (18%) as the most popular proposals.
The university is one of several to have published such agreements, first proposed in a UPP Foundation report by the former head of the civil service Lord Robert Kerslake. The UPP Foundation wants universities to write agreements with their local communities that detail how the institution seeks to strengthen the local society, economy and culture.
Since that 2019 report, over 50 universities have joined the civic university network and announced their intention to develop a civic university agreement. A handful – including Nottingham and Nottingham Trent; Newcastle and Northumbria; Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, Salford, Royal Northern College of Music and University of Bolton – have announced the details of city-wide deals.
The Sheffield Hallam civic agreement outlines its intention to offer at least 2,500 fully work-based degree apprenticeships, with tuition fees paid by employers while students earn and learn. The university seeks to double the number of places for healthcare professionals by 2025 to address regional staff shortages. A school mentoring programme for volunteer Hallam graduates that has, to date, worked with more than 1,000 local GCSE and A-level pupils will expand, the plan adds. The university seeks to open an early years community research centre in Shirecliffe, “providing a vital community early years resource”. Hallam has promised to build a “joined-up post-18 education offer” and expand an innovation hub at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
A Sheffield city centre “gateway” – plans for which it outlined recently – also features as the university promises to regenerate a corner of the city into a “public university green space”. Hallam plans “free and subsidised” support for regional SMEs, including consultancy, training, access to university facilities, and research and innovation.
Sheffield Hallam deputy vice-chancellor Richard Calvert said the university aspires to be a “beacon for what a university can do for and with its community”.
“Working closely with partners across the region, we are seeking to provide solutions to key regional challenges with the ultimate aim of improving the lives of local people, and strengthening the regional economy and skills base,” he said. “The range of civic commitments set out in the new agreement demonstrates our determination to put the community at the heart of our everyday practice, ensuring that our activities provide the maximum possible benefit for local communities.
Read more: Can universities do more for their towns?