Modern universities as place makers
26 May 2022
The University of East London (UEL) is featured as a case study in a seminal campaign and report from MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, which examines and highlights the critical economic and social impact role modern universities like UEL have within their regions.
The campaign and report, launched on 24 May 2022, highlights the key role of modern universities benefitting their local region across three key areas:
- Their regional economic impact – modern universities are regenerators and drivers of innovation.
- The social impact of modern universities – tackling inequality and providing wider benefits to the local area and region.
- The student lifecycle – recruiting locally, offering a transformational educational experience and strong graduate outcomes within the region.
How does this apply to UEL?
As a careers-first institution that prepares our graduates for life after study, we take great pride in ensuring our students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to make a positive difference in the world, all while ensuring that as a university we are making a lasting positive impact on our community.
For almost 125 years the University has directly served the needs of the east London community, providing professional level skills to the local population, undertaking cutting edge, impactful, industry-relevant research, supporting community health and driving innovation and business growth. In our strategy, Vision 2028, the University restated its commitment to serve the people of east London and to take bold steps forward in the provision of academic, research and innovation activities, playing a significant role as a place maker within the region and helping to resolve some of the challenges faced.
A case study: Royal Docks Centre for Sustainability
Million Plus's campaign, has chosen the University of East London's newly launch Royal Docks Centre for Sustainability as a case study conveying how universities like ours are place makers within the community, contributing both socially and economically. The Royal Docks Centre for Sustainability will be a clean, green, Industry 5.0 powerhouse utilising the centripetal force of the Enterprise Zone to deliver to Newham residents 'good growth': improved economic sustainability, measurable improvements in community wellbeing and 'tech-for-good' solutions to real life problems.
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic that had a devastating impact on Newham residents and local businesses, it was imperative for the University to make a step-change in the direct support it provides the community in its skills provision, health and businesses support. At the heart of the University's bold global vision is the need to serve community of the Borough of Newham and connect local citizens with the opportunities provided by the Royal Docks. We hope the Centre will have a wide range of positive immediate and longer-term impacts upon the lives of local residents and the economy of east London. Shaped and delivered by an interconnected network bringing together the power of community groups, local businesses, the UEL, the Royal Docks and Newham Borough Council with global industrial partners and national sector-leaders, the new Centre will become a thriving, inclusive hub:
- driving green growth,
- setting new measures of success including wider social measures of inclusive growth and community wealth-building,
- improving community health and wellbeing,
- establishing new educational pathways to high-impact careers with direct societal benefit,
- creating good jobs for the local population,
- providing a world-class, employer-relevant, testbed for green research and innovation, and
- a hatchery of investable sustainable, future-relevant businesses.
Other ways in which UEL is benefitting the local community:
Aside from the featured case study about the Royal Docks Centre for Sustainability, UEL has a large variety of programmes that contribute economically and socially to Newham and across the London region. Below are some fantastic examples of how we drive innovation, support local businesses and the economy, and how we help with social issues particularly in reducing educational and social inequality.
1. Listening Campaign: Amplifying the voices of children and young people in Newham
The Institute of Connected Communities (ICC) at UEL has a long and proud history of delivering community-based health and safety initiatives. Empowering community voices and providing opportunities for communities to steer their own public health interventions is a core philosophy of the Institute. In partnership with the Newham Youth Safety Action Team, ICC launched the Listening Campaign, a comprehensive survey that investigated potential dangers faced by young people on public transport in Newham, and examined the students work readiness.
Over 1,000 young people from three Newham schools and sixth form colleges responded to the survey. Using the results of the survey, schools were able to view the most common transport routes used by students and identify ways to reduce risks along those routes. One of the participating schools, St Bonaventure's Catholic School, has begun to set up Safe Havens in particularly dangerous areas where students can access help if they feel unsafe. The survey was also able to provide critical information about how the participating students felt about working in Newham in the future. Subsequently it identified a need for more apprenticeship opportunities, better mental health support and more opportunities for communication between young people and potential future employers. The results of this listening exercise allow community partners and the Borough to more effectively serve the needs and concerns of young people in Newham and empowers young people to engage with local government to advocate for their own futures.
2. ARENA: supporting sustainable business
The ARENA project provides support to London start-ups, spin-outs and SMEs seeking to develop and commercialise their innovative ideas, products and services that advance resource efficiency, urban green infrastructure, and nature-based solutions for urban resilience. Through ARENA, UEL's Sustainable Research Institute (SRI) provides bespoke academic expertise and access to specialist equipment. The resources and guidance allow businesses to realise their potential and strive towards ethical and sustainable models of operation and experimentation or innovation to achieve green aspirations. This three-and-a-half-year initiative (2019-2022) was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
As of February 2022, the ARENA project has registered 50 eligible businesses to which support is being provided. Of these, 26 businesses (52 percent) have pursued better resource efficiency and/or the circular economy practices, while 20 (40 per cent) are being supported to develop nature-based solutions and urban green infrastructure and four (8 per cent) improved in both areas. 23 businesses (46 per cent of the total) are based in east London.
The 'green economy' is worth more to London's economy than the construction and manufacturing sectors combined and lies at the heart of London's aspirations to become a world-leading low carbon city in harmony with the natural environment. ARENA is an incubator, growing the green economy sector and providing an anchor point in the larger regeneration project of the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone and partnering on the Mayoral Green Skills Academy. The programme provides opportunities for UEL students, either as part of their studies or as interns, to meaningfully engage with entrepreneurs in this burgeoning and lucrative sector.
3. Nursing partnerships at UEL: working with the NHS
Nursing at the University of East London has excellent partnerships across the North East London networks for student placements. These include the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, Barts Health, the Homerton NHS foundation Trust, North East London Foundation Trust and Imperial College NHS Foundation Trust. The department also has good links across the private and independent sector, too, and aims to train local nurses for the local area where there is an acute shortage of nursing staff.
In October 2021, a group of students started a new two-year UCAS entry nursing associate programme with Imperial College Healthcare. The sponsored nursing associate programme aims to give members of the local community the opportunity to begin a nursing career at the trust - while developing the nursing workforce. The nursing associate role is a support role that bridges the gap between healthcare support workers and registered nurses, helping with the delivery of care under the supervision of a registered nurse. The students undertake their nursing associate placements at one of Imperial College Healthcare Trust's hospitals, alongside associated community partners, with dedicated support from their nursing education team.
The Department of Nursing includes more than 1,000 students and multiple ways to access the nursing profession, including a short course designed to pique interest in the field and help to address the national shortage of nurses.
Launch of the new Hospital and Primary Care Training Hub in the School of Health, Sport and