The University of Sunderland has reaffirmed its commitment to the city and north east region by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in the local community top of its list of priorities.

Sunderland joins 30 other institutions in committing to produce a ‘Civic University Agreement’ in partnership with local government and other major organisations.

The new agreement is a key recommendation in a report published today (12 February) by the Civic University Commission. The commission was set up by the University Partnerships Programme (UPP) Foundation and chaired by the former Head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake.

The report sets out how universities like Sunderland have the capability, opportunity and responsibility to support the places where they are based, to solve some of their most pressing and major problems.

These issues range from helping regional software and advanced manufacturing business adapt to technological change, to boosting the health of local people, improving education for school pupils and adult learners, and training and developing new civic leaders in every field from politics to the arts.

The report aims to help universities to build on the excellent work that many, such as the University of Sunderland, are already carrying out in these areas, working alongside councils, employers, cultural institutions, schools and further education colleges.

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of University of Sunderland, said: “Universities have an important role to play in a fair and democratic society. At the University of Sunderland we measure our success not just by awards and league table results, but by the contribution we make to society.

“The Civic University Commission’s report highlights the type of impactful initiatives that universities such as Sunderland are delivering – diligently and effectively. For those who benefit from these initiatives, civic universities are life-changing.

“In our evidence to the Commission we highlighted the University of Sunderland’s work to raise aspirations and widen participation in higher education; our collaboration with industry and our commitment to place shaping – benefitting the local population by improving Sunderland’s culture, economy and sense of civic pride.”
The report warns that there is a danger that any cut in the resources available to universities – such as a reduction in student fees without the deficit being made up in funding from the Treasury – will mean that work already being done in this area could be slashed.

The report was based on evidence-gathering sessions held across England. The authors also commissioned opinion polling and focus groups in cities and towns to hear from the public what they wanted from their local university.

This research discovered communities welcome opportunities to connect with universities, and there is great local pride about how universities put their hometown on the map.

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