What Does it Mean to be a Civic University?

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Many believe that higher education institutions have a responsibility to contribute to the public good, so what can your university do to contribute positively to its local area and community?  

The role of higher education institutions, whether it’s on a local, national, or global level, is under constant debate.  

When concentrating this lens on the local level, there’s an ongoing discussion around the concept of a civic university and the benefits it could bring.  

What is a civic university?  

civic university is an institution that has a place-based strategy about how it connects to its local city area and local community.   

A civic university will examine how it interacts with and influences the local community, analyzing not just what it’s good at but what it’s good for.  

It then goes a step further and explores what it can do for its local area and community, and how it can be a positive force for change.  

In the ongoing debate around how universities approach social responsibility, many institutions focus on the national and global levels, often overlooking the local level.  

This is a grave misstep, as universities have the potential to spark substantial and wide-ranging changes to their local communities.  

What are the benefits for universities? 

The benefits of becoming a civic university and adopting a civic mission are multilayered.  

Reaching out and engaging with your local community can improve social mobility, making higher education and research as accessible as possible. 

It can help develop strong mutually beneficial partnerships between your university and local and regional organizations.  

This will in turn allow you to set up student placements with external partners and nurture links to local employers. 

You’ll also be contributing to the inclusive growth of a more prosperous economy and more equitable society, something that could boost staff morale, satisfaction, and engagement. 

Finally, these initiatives can be shared and promoted in marketing materials and communications with prospective students and staff, showcasing the values and mission that underpin your institution.  

How to communicate your civic contribution 

Whilst measuring the civic contribution of universities can be difficult, it’s important that universities are consistent and authentic in their approach.  

This is particularly crucial when communicating with prospective students and staff about these civic activities.  

So, what’s an authentic story that you can tell about your civic contribution? And how do you weave this into your marketing materials whilst still staying true to your values? 

One way to effectively measure your civic contribution is tracking it against the UN Sustainable Development Goals 

Analyze the data and results behind your civic initiatives and determine how they contribute to these 2030 goals set by the UN. 

Beyond these goals, talk to local leaders and groups to determine how your civic contribution and initiatives have impacted the local community, sourcing quotes and key figures.  

If you’d like to learn more about how universities can approach social responsibility, download your free copy of our recently released reportThe Rise of Social Responsibility in Higher Education.  


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