City and University of Exeter join forces in multiple projects, with many EUniverCities partners too!

From the construction sector to community and civic engagement, the City and the University of Exeter are very active in a number of projects. Some of them also include the collaboration of many EUniverCities partners as well:


Building Greater Exeter

Building Greater Exeter was set up to support the construction sector across Exeter, and within a 15 mile radius, to meet its skilled labour requirements, now, and in the future. The project launched two years ago and since then the project has provided many positive outcomes for the sector, supporting young people, jobseekers and everyone to understand the work and training opportunities that are available within construction and the built environment.

Building Greater Exeter is a partnership and the project would not be possible without the support of project partners who work collaboratively to deliver the project outcomes. There are currently 30 partners, including construction companies, training and education providers and local authorities, with Exeter City Council, hosting the project. Exeter University were a founding member not only due to the number of construction projects that are ongoing across their sites, but also due to the Civil Engineering degree apprenticeship courses they offer.

The project also supports the work of Exeter City Living, which is a City Council owned development company to build 12,000 new homes in Exeter to passivhaus standard.  Building Greater Exeter works with Exeter College, the University of Exeter and local construction companies to develop passivhaus construction skills to build new homes and commercial property at scale.  This also supports the ambition of creating a Net Zero Carbon city by 2030.


Building Greater Exeter have recently produced a two year review which provides an overview of the key activity delivered in collaboration with their partners since launch, under their three main areas of focus:

1)     Inspire the future workforce through an effective engagement programme with schools and young people

2)     Support employers with recruitment and upskilling

3)     ‘Employment and Skills Plans’ on all major developments

The review is available to view or download on their website.


Highlights include:

1) The online Construction Education Hub, which offers a wide selection of engaging activities and resources for different age groups, interested in finding out more about careers in construction and the built environment.

2) They organised and attended around 50 events with their partners to ensure the sector was represented, and to promote construction a career of choice, including Apprenticeship Shows, Career Events, School assemblies, job fairs and resettlement events for service leavers.

3) They also launched a Construction Job Shop to promote local vacancies and training opportunities. Initially face to face at the Civic Centre and now as a weekly telephone service, as well as featuring vacancies on their website. They have also teamed up with Exeter Works as their construction partner.

4) Building Greater Exeter work closely with the planning teams from the local authorities engaged in the project to ensure ‘Employment and Skills Plans’ are delivered on all major developments, to ensure there are opportunities locally for jobs and training.


Future plans

During 2020, Building Greater Exeter haven’t been able to deliver as much activity as hoped, but they are still attending virtual events, creating digital assets and looking at creative ways to promote careers in construction. They recently filmed at the new Ada Lovelace Building at Exeter Science Park, as part of national Ada Lovelace Day celebrations, to promote women in construction in STEMM careers.  They also filmed at St Sidwell’s Point, Exeter’s new flagship passivhaus swimming pool and leisure complex, to showcase the variety of different job roles involved in the design and build, which will be used by schools to support their career advice.

They are also working on a project to support young jobseekers to access training and work opportunities and other activity includes a campaign to target key audiences to inspire them to follow a career in construction, based on their interests and to connect them to suitable vacancies for work experience, training and jobs.

As part of Exeter’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan – Building Exeter Back Better, construction is one of the seven recovery groups and Building Greater Exeter are in the process of mapping out all the major developments across the local area to ensure Employment and Skills plans are in place, ensuring opportunities for training and employment. In addition there is an ambition around healthy and sustainable buildings which require new skills and different methods of construction, which the project can help support. Whilst the vision document, Liveable Exeter outlines plans to build 12,000 new homes in Exeter in the next twenty years and Building Greater Exeter is set up to help ensure there is a robust and skilled workforce to deliver our infrastructure and housing.

For further information visit their website for further details, or you can keep up to date with our latest news on LinkedIn or Twitter.


Socially Engaged Universities (SEU)

The central aim of the Socially Engaged Universities (SEU) Project is to share experience and know-how of relationships between European Universities and their civic and civil societies and to understand how Higher Education Institutions can better respond to what their local community really needs. All SEU Partners were drawn exclusively from the EUniverCities network after identifying a mutual interest in this field following the EUniverCities meeting in Magdeburg in 2017.

As 2020 draws to a close, the SEU project is approaching the end of its second year. Despite the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic, each of the SEU university partners have delivered successful pilot projects in their city or region which aimed to address local societal challenges. As the pandemic forced activities online, each of the partners adapted their approach and engagement activities, reaching out through innovative and novel techniques. But despite this, all partners have managed to develop successful and meaningful community university partnerships and deliver on the aims set out at the beginning of their projects.

The University of Exeter has been working with Tidelines, a local community-led organisation which aims to raise awareness of the challenges of climate change on the Exe Estuary. This project aims to create a Community Hub which is exploring the environmental priorities of local communities and organisations and is raising research questions which will become the subject of co-designed research projects with students from the Global Sustainability Solutions Master’s programme.

In Magdeburg, the university has been working with the agency bidding for Magdeburg to become the Capitol of Culture 2020. Students from the Cultural Engineering programme are using quantitative and qualitative methods to learn more about the cultural landscape of Magdeburg and to understand why people do not participate in the Magdeburg cultural life.

In Ghent, the project is focussing on youth in public spaces. Taking a co-creative approach, the university has led a series of stakeholder meetings, building trust and developing a common objective to help formalise the collaboration between the different stakeholders involved.

The University of Parma has been providing scientific and communication support to an existing project – Parma: Mountains of Quality. Students have participated in field research and data analysis and the project is helping regional farmers to tackle topics such as sustainable agriculture, conservation and characterisation and enhancement of fresh and processed agricultural food products.

Finally, in The Hague University of Applied Sciences, the project has taken a novel approach to connecting knowledge institutions, city and social institutions and inhabitants in the Delft neighbourhood of Tanthof. Working closely with a knowledge broker from the City Deal on Education, this project has connected different THUAS courses with issues such as the migrant elderly.

The Pilot Project Synthesis Report will be available on the SEU Project Website early 2020.


Communities and Students Together (CaST)

The Communities and Students Together (CaST) project has got off to a great start, with the completion of the first two intellectual outputs – The State of the Art Review of Engaged Learning and the Engaged Learning Case Study Compendium. The first of these two outputs explored the history of community engaged learning and the different models of engaged learning globally, as well as in our own countries. The second output took a more in depth look at an engaged learning initiative in each our own institutions, trying to determine what works, what doesn’t and what are the benefits for students, the university and wider society.

As with SEU, CaST partners are all members of the EUniverCities Network, and were drawn together because of their interest and expertise in community engaged learning. The partners - University of Exeter, University of Ghent, University of Magdeburg, University of Parma, University of Malaga, and University of Turku - are currently planning for the next phase of the project when we will design one or more community engaged learning pilot programme(s). These initiatives will draw on practical and pedagogical lessons from existing international good practice as well as from our own case studies. The design of each initiative will be chosen by the university partners in close collaboration with their stakeholders. Incorporating lessons learned from the previous work packages will help ensure the activities are innovative and gives each partner the opportunity to collaborate and share practice with one another.


New Civic University Agreements at the University of Exeter

In 2019, a report by the University Partnerships Programme (UPP) Foundation recommended that universities in the UK pledge to develop a Civic University Agreement (CUA) in partnership with local government and other major institutions such as NHS bodies in their area. Co-created and signed by other key civic partners, the CUA would be a clear plan of action which sets out clear measurable objectives which ensure universities put the economy and quality of life in their city and region at the top of their list of priorities. The CUA should also ensure that civic activities become embedded in the university teaching and research functions instead of being framed as a separate, third mission.

The University of Exeter is one of more than 50 universities to have signed this pledge. As part of the process, we have recently brought all of our business, public and community engagement activity across the region, together into our first ever Regional Engagement Strategy which will help shape our CUAs. Next, we plan to embark on a regional ‘listening exercise’ where we are seeking to understand what our local communities, organisations, groups, businesses, and policymakers want from the University of Exeter. 

We will be asking our partners what they want from the University of Exeter; how they think we should engage with the region’s businesses, citizens and policy makers; and how we should be held accountable to any targets or priorities. Ultimately we wish to affirm our commitment to the region through actions which have been prioritised by our regional partners, in order to help us deliver on aims such as ‘the quality of life of our local community’ and ‘the success of our local economy’.

We plan to co-create and sign three CUAs, one each with partners in Exeter, Devon and Cornwall, by early 2021.


Exeter, a City of Culture

Exeter City Council is committed to Culture and has ensured that culture is embedded in the plans that will shape the city in the future. Culture is one of the five priorities in the City Council’s five-year strategic plan, acknowledging it as a significant contributor to the city’s prosperity and growth.
Exeter City Council continues to invest in Culture supporting the cities 6 National Portfolio Organisations to the tune of £250,000 a year. In 2019, Exeter was awarded both UNESCO City of Literature Status and designated cultural compact status in recognition in the strength and importance of the arts in the city.
In 2019, pre COVID-19, Exeter City Council’s Corn Exchange staged more than 300 events and 40,000 ticket sales. There were 256,458 visits to the RAMM and over 18,000 children and students took part in activities and tours. A band of 200 volunteers contributed 14,637 hours of time giving back to the community. The RAMM loaned 501 objects to institutions around the world and gave some back too!

UNESCO City of Literature status is a designation that Exeter will now hold in perpetuity. The award recognises excellence and places an obligation on cities to nurture and support their art form and collaborate internationally.
As a City of Literature, Exeter joins 245 other ‘Creative Cities’ in 28 countries across six continents, all working together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.
The City of Literature designation is a positive step for Exeter, and is set to play a significant role in Exeter’s civic and cultural recovery and future. It also gives the opportunity to partner with the other 38 cities of literature globally and provide opportunities for new projects and commissions because of these new relationships.
Exeter’s UNESCO City of Literature status also supports Exeter’s first place based Cultural Strategy which was led by Exeter Culture, the city’s Cultural Partnership, and commissioned on behalf of their funding partners including, Exeter City Council, Arts Council England, University of Exeter, Exeter College and InExeter (Business Improvement District). It is also co-owned by Exeter City Council.

The strategy sets out a vision to enable culture to work with and through key areas that are relevant for people and communities in and around the city. It calls for Exeter ‘to be known nationally and internationally as a city of culture; a city that will innovate and lead in the areas of the environment, wellbeing, cultural literacy, creative making and heritage innovation to build a living city where everyone thrives.’

The strategy identifies five Overarching Themes:

  • City of Culture for the Environment
  • City of Cultural Wellbeing
  • City of Heritage Innovation
  • City of Making
  • City of Cultural Literacy and leaning

Each theme has key actions that set clear deliverable targets. Additionally, the strategy recommends a range of cross-cutting priorities, including: the creative case for diversity; enhancing governance; audience development and engagement; invigorating partnerships; internationalisation; communication; evaluation; nurturing talent; and urban and rural connections.

Further to this, Exeter City Council received Cultural Compact status with support from the Arts Council England. The compact formed part of Liveable Exeter, a strategic Board that provides direction to the city on its key priority areas that include health and wellbeing, economic growth, environment, education, transport and culture. It has the city’s key organisations and services as part of its membership. This includes Exeter City Council, the University of Exeter, Exeter College, the Police, Hospital, MPs, sporting clubs, heritage and culture. The priorities of the city’s cultural sector report into Liveable Exeter and the deliverables of the Cultural Compact. This allows culture to intersect and collaborate with other sectors and be a part of the highest level discussions about city development.

The vision of the Liveable Board for Culture:

‘Exeter will be known nationally and internationally as a city of culture. It will innovate and lead in the area of the environment, wellbeing, cultural literacy, creative making and heritage innovation to build a living city where everyone thrives. Under its UNESCO City of Literature status Exeter will become a destination for writers and a city of readers. The city will use the power of literature and words to pursue a set of wellbeing goals to improve life for all.’

With the Cultural Compact being embedded with Liveable Exeter, is it certain that this will continue in the long term for a minimum of four years. Liveable Exeter will be monitoring and reviewing the delivery of the Cultural Strategy up to 2024. Liveable Exeter and partners are keen to see that Exeter (which is now demonstrating excellent partnerships at the highest level) can move to the next phase of development and develop some major strategic bids and programmes to ensure that maximise the huge potential of the city. Exeter is very keen to maximise opportunities for funds and opportunities and support the recovery of the city.



Secretariat EUniverCities
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