Civic-ness in the curriculum

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Lancaster University is one of 30 UK signatories of a Civic University Agreement with a commitment to establish partnerships with local government and other stakeholders to serve the public good, economic prosperity and sustainability of local communities.This commitment is reinforced in the Civic University Commission’s report, stressing the university’s responsibility in becoming actively engaged in solving some of the most pressing place-based challenges. This academic year has seen a launch of a challenge posed to the new cohort of MSc Entrepreneurship and Innovation students: How might we improve experience of overseas visitors in Lancaster so that they have an enjoyable time and recommend our beautiful city to others?

For the first three weeks of their studies the students immersed themselves in the innovation challenge focusing on the natural beauty and heritage of our beautiful city. Their fresh eyes and culturally diverse backgrounds have brought re-framing of what we as local citizens may no longer see. Students final presentations were reviewed by an academic panel including Susie Jones and Michelle Blackburn, Teaching and Learning Leads from Sheffield Business School, at Sheffield Hallam University.

“We have been truly inspired during our visit by the powerful learning experience that Radka has created for her students. Its scale and genuine potential to help Lancaster, its businesses and citizens flourish is a powerful example of what universities can do when they actively work alongside the place they call home. It was great to see diverse learners apply complex models, alongside personal and research insights, to a multi-dimensional challenge. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the students present their findings with confidence, and what was particularly impressive, is that they were able to do this within the first three weeks of study on their course. We want to thank Radka for sharing her teaching and for role modelling learning excellence and her students for producing some great work.”

In July 2021 Professor Newton established a Good Place Innovators Team with an objective to facilitate more meaningful and reciprocal engagement between the City and the Campus whilst promoting responsible education and commitment to co-creating a sustainable future. Since then the team developed a multi-stakeholder programme that builds on the local community and environment as a starting point to deliver hands-on, real-world learning experiences creating heightened commitment to serving as active, contributing citizens. Students and local communities have a platform to innovate collaboratively, and to become ‘agents of change’ in addressing relevant place-based challenges contributing to the socio-economic regeneration of their city. The team’s nomination for the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence in 2023 put the team’s achievements on the map of the global Higher Education innovation initiative attracting attention of colleagues in Sheffield Hallam University, the leading institution of the Civic University Network.

Professor Newton concluded:

“This collaborative partnership between our two institutions will enrich not only innovations in pedagogy but also development of richer examples of civic commitment of universities implemented within our curricula as a core and authentic learning outcome. The Centre is excited about collaboration with colleagues from Sheffield who bring opportunities for connecting civic agenda with principles of responsible management and commitment to sustainable education practices.”

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