How our civic university agreement will make an impact

Earlier this year, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities launched the Collaborative Newcastle Universities Agreement (CNUA). This ambitious new civic university partnership brings together the world-leading expertise and collective ‘power’ of both organisations – over 10,000 staff and 50,000 students – to support the health, wealth and wellbeing of people living in Newcastle and beyond.

We talked to Jane Robinson – Pro-Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Place at Newcastle University and Chair of Collaborative Newcastle’s Growth and Prosperity Delivery Group – to find out more about how the two universities are working together with partners to deliver our shared vision.

How did the Collaborative Newcastle Universities Agreement come about?   

Our agreement is based on a model that has recently been established by the The Civic University Network, which works with universities across the country to develop and embed their civic role in supporting local communities and driving positive change in society. It’s a way of working that we, at Newcastle and Northumbria, firmly believe in – and which dovetails perfectly with the ethos and vision of Collaborative Newcastle.

Whilst the formal Collaborative Newcastle Universities Agreement was only created in recent months, it builds on many years of informal and longstanding partnership working with each other, as well as with fellow anchor organisations in the City, such as the council and NHS, to support the health, wealth and wellbeing of the region.

How will it make a difference?

By formalising and focusing the ways in which we’re working together, we can be greater than the sum of our parts. The Universities Agreement sets out how we will contribute to Collaborative Newcastle’s three pillars (Health and Care; Growth and Prosperity; Net Zero Newcastle) through a series of ambitious joint projects and workstreams.

The Agreement also outlines our role in supporting the development of an evidence base – gathering the data and insight which will shape future Collaborative Newcastle priorities and projects and enable us to collectively assess progress and how and where we are making a difference.

What’s ‘new’ about this approach if you’ve always worked collaboratively?

We have worked together for many, many years – with academics collaborating and both of our organisations working with partners across Newcastle on different projects. But this new approach is deeply inter-connected and people-centred, recognising that people don’t live their lives in silos.

This next phase of collaboration is about developing a deeper understanding of our ‘place’ and working in a structured way with both communities and partners to develop and test new approaches that will improve the health, wealth and wellbeing of the city and wider region. Importantly, we’ll be evaluating and measuring the impact of this collective work going forward.

Can you give an example of a project that epitomises what the Universities Agreement is seeking to achieve?

Yes, a great example that epitomises our aims and ambition is the IntoUniversity project.

A new IntoUniversity centre has been created in the east of Newcastle, for7–18-year-olds, providing invaluable academic support, soft-skill development and experience of the world of work to inspire young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve a university place.

We hope the new centre will benefit over 1,000 students a year, delivering free after-school academic support sessions to primary and secondary school children, providing aspiration-building workshops and a mentoring programme with current university students and professionals.

This venture is a key part of our ongoing commitment to improve access to Higher Education for all young people, regardless of their background, and particularly here in the North East which has some of the lowest levels of applications to University in the country. We’re committed to helping children and young people fulfil their potential – which in turn will help boost employment, support economic growth and better enable local people to live happy, health and fulfilling lives.

What does success look like for the Collaborative Newcastle Universities Agreement?

We’re passionate about making a positive impact in lots of different ways…

  • Through our collective research – driving innovation which will support sustainable and inclusive growth within the city and wider region.
  • Through education – working together to develop the skills needed for the future workforce and supporting young people to achieve their full potential.
  • And through our role as responsible anchor institutions in our city – providing good employment, sustainable procurement practices and through the positive local contribution our students make.

For me, success is when we can demonstrably show that we have made a difference in all of these ways, as ‘place-based institutions’ committed to the economic, social, environmental, and cultural life of our local communities.

Working closely with our partners we will be clear about what we’re collectively delivering and how we’re measuring it. We want to be able to say with confidence what success has been achieved through our collaboration and, importantly, how we might do better in the future.


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