Universities are critical to the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of their cities and regions. Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community. Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, Ehrlich
Our ambition is:
For our Staff and Students to be embedded at the heart of our communities**.
To create economic, social, and cultural influence and impact.
To continue to lead and champion widening access, supporting students from diverse backgrounds to realise their potential.
To continue to engage with industry, supporting regional ambitions.
To support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Abertay University plays a key role in Dundee and the region. In a city of c150,000 people, Abertay directly represents 3% of the population through our staff and current students. Our reach is greater if we also include the connections we have with the business community through Knowledge Exchange Partnerships, research activity, employment of our graduates and student placements or projects. Many of our alumni are parents of current students, local employers or employees.
Abertay is an anchor institution* in Dundee and has been embedded in our city and its communities** for its entire history.
We support the wider communities, through our workforce and employment capacity, and by creative use of facilities and land assets. Positive use of these aspects can affect social, economic and environmental change.
And as an institution our impact and reach extends beyond our location, meaning our research may be international, our work may be digital and our communities may be wider than the local area.
* The term 'anchor institution' refers to 'large employers with a strong local presence in an area. They can exert sizable influence through their commissioning and purchasing of goods and services, through their workforce and employment capacity, and by creative use of their facilities and land assets. Positive use of these aspects can affect social, economic and environmental change in an area. Anchors can be your local council, University, college, housing association, NHS health board or large local private sector employers'.
** 'Communities' in this document includes business, the third sector such as registered charities and community groups, the public sector including health boards, police, fire, schools, criminal justice, councils, the cultural sector such as museums, galleries, theatres, performing arts government and the general public.
Our Civic Engagement Strategy was developed in consultation with staff across the University in 2023. It sets out our current and potential role in civic engagement and provides a strategic framework and recommended actions. It is likely that this strategy and its implementation plan will develop, evolve, and be revisited and updated as required.
Our Strategic Plan focuses on Abertay’s ability to add value to the Scottish economy. It also expresses our vision for the future and continues to build on work that will improve social, cultural and economic outcomes. It talks about our wider contribution where Abertay 'will be an active and committed partner in the ongoing cultural and economic development of Dundee and the region'.
'Staff will be encouraged to maintain close links with business/ industry/professional disciplines' and 'we will offer work-related learning opportunities on all programmes. We will give all students the opportunity not only to learn new knowledge and skills but also to apply their learning in practical situations.'
In addition, Abertay is committed to the principles of the UKRI Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research.
Public engagement enhances research so that it contributes positively to society and results in greater relevance, accountability and transparency….. We believe that engaging with the public should form part of the role of researchers in any discipline. By engaging with the public researchers can benefit from improving the quality of research and its impact, by widening research horizons or providing user perspectives; enhancing researchers’ communication and influencing skills; higher personal and institutional profiles; new partnerships. Public engagement can also help universities actively contribute to positive social change and the "public good". Prof. Alan Thorpe, OBE
The international strategy talks about the importance that our international students have on the cultural impact of the city:
'We will contribute to the City of Dundee’s Cultural Strategy and build on our reputation as the UK’s first and only UNESCO International City of Design and creativity through increasing the number and diversity of international students living and studying in the city. By encouraging international students to study at Abertay we will celebrate and promote global citizenship for both our international and our home-based students.
Further to the recruitment of international students, we will enable and encourage our international students to engage with the wider community in Dundee and surrounding areas. We will provide opportunities for our international students to contribute to both our academic and civic communities through curricula activities, projects, volunteering and community work.
We will explore opportunities for international students to get involved with Dundee schools to share experiences from country of origin and potentially get involved in supporting language classes. The integration of international students into the city will form a component of our Civic Engagement.
We will work closely with Abertay’s Students’ Association to support and enable international students to engage with, and enhance the social, economic and cultural activities at Abertay and throughout the City of Dundee.'
The University has an ambitious Estates Plan to redevelop our city centre campus. Subject to final approvals and the funding, there are plans to greatly improve the campus.
The Vision for our estate is in progress at the time of writing this document, with major improvements already delivered such as the cyberQuarter development/Cladding the north exterior of the Kydd building and room upgrades.
We are seen as an anchor institution in Dundee as we embark upon an Estates masterplan to 'become more physically and visually permeable and to showcase our learning and activity to the wider community and enhance our campus experience'.
There are a number of campus development plans which would augment and change our campus as part of the vision and allow us to engage more with our communities.
Abertay University is located in the city centre of Dundee, a small city of c.150,000 residents. Of course, our sphere of influence extends beyond Dundee, to the wider local regional area, including Angus, Perth, and Fife, where the overall 'commuting' population is estimated to be 400,000. It is important to note that our civic engagement may extend beyond the communities of Dundee and Tayside. Our engagement may be digital, national or international, and without geographic boundaries.
Dundee is the UK's first and only City of Design. This global designation as a Creative City acknowledges Dundee's rich design heritage, the thriving contemporary design sector. It is a city committed to using design to solve problems and to help make Dundee a better place to live.
Dundee is also home to the Scotland's first Design Museum, the V&A Dundee. The University is a founding partner of the V&A Dundee and supporters of Unesco City of Design and is actively involved with both organisations.
Dundee is building a reputation as a sustainable city too, supported by the Port of Dundee’s work in decommissioning oil and gas, the promised arrival of the Eden Project to the city, and the Michelin Innovation Parc supporting sustainable businesses. In 2019 the city was named the best place to live in Scotland and in 2022, as one of the best places in the UK to own an electric car due to the density of EV charging points.
As members of the Dundee Partnership, Abertay will support these priorities through our own work and our civic engagement with partners in the city and region.
Abertay University staff engage in a wide range of outreach activities - either through their work - particularly academic research and enhancing teaching practice through community engagement - or through personal motivation.
A 2022 survey showed that the breadth of civic engagement was very wide. Here is a flavour of the range of activities at time of publication*:
*This list is not exhaustive and does not include the outreach work specifically supporting student recruitment or delivered through academic research.
Abertay University has an important role to play in supporting civic engagement. There is potential to do more civic engagement, using our People actively working across Schools and Services both staff and students, our Place as in the communities we can engage with, our Estate and through Partners and through a Plan.
Civic Engagement brings benefits to our communities and to Abertay, offering staff and students opportunities:
This can also help student employability by enabling the demonstration of relevant skills and experience in an applied work or community setting.
These diverse activities, when supported corporately, give us the opportunity to enhance and elevate the Abertay brand. Staff and students engaging with our community are seen as Abertay ambassadors.
Civic Engagement allows Abertay to work to make a difference in the civic life in our communities for shared benefits.
Our ambition is to provide impact to the community that we are a part of. The underpinning of our Civic Engagement Strategic Plan is that we will 'work to make a difference in our communities'.
The activities to support civic engagement will develop and evolve dependent on resourcing/uptake and are seen to be university- wide, delivered by academic and professional services staff at all levels and involve our student body and our Students' Association.
1. We will enable our staff and students to engage with our communities through a range of academic and non-academic activities.
2. We will improve the available information for staff and students on civic engagement activities and opportunities to widen our civic engagement activities and reach.
3. We will invest in our Estate and city centre campus to support our civic engagement.
4. We will embed civic engagement activities within our day-to-day work.