Shaping the Future

Universities from across the country are set to gather in Plymouth for a first-of-its-kind conference that will focus upon the impact that ‘knowledge exchange’ activities can have upon degree education and the student experience.

Shaping the future of Student Engagement in Knowledge Exchange brings together the 20 universities that received funding from the Office for Students (OfS) and Research England to explore the impact of student involvement in knowledge exchange.

Senior figures in the sector and education experts will address the conference at the University of Plymouth on 12 May, presenting research and sharing best practice to inform public partnerships and policy.

Among the keynote speakers will be Paul Manners, Director of Policy at the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement; and Rosie Lavis, Senior knowledge exchange policy advisor at Research England. Dr Brooke Storer-Church, Head of Skills at Office for Students, will also be addressing the conference via a video message.

“A key strategic objective for the OfS is to ensure that all students leave their courses with the knowledge, skills, and attributes that are required by employers, along with the skills needed to contribute to their local economies and communities,” 

says Dr Storer-Church.

“The Student Engagement in Knowledge Exchange programme, which we’ve co-funded with Research England, is an important mechanism for us to contribute to improving employment outcomes for students and supporting local economic growth. Therefore, we would like to express our thanks to Plymouth for hosting this conference which will enable best practice to be shared across the projects involved in such an important programme of work.”

Twenty Higher Education Institutions were awarded a share of £10m funding from OfS and Research England, in 2020, to explore the impact of student involvement in knowledge exchange.

These included projects that brought together students with the NHS (York St John); the creation of a student-driven multi-disciplinary professional services organisation to provide pro bono, social impact-driven consultancy to external partners (Queen Mary University of London); and a project to use sports and arts to improve mental health in the local community (Edge Hill).

At Plymouth, the funding was used to establish a new academy to prepare, train and equip students with the professional skills and behaviours required to deliver knowledge exchange in a variety of settings.

Dr Bonnie Latimer, Associate Dean for Education and Student Experience in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business, said: 

“Knowledge Exchange in a student learning context has always been regarded as a societal good – a win-win for all parties. These OfS-backed projects have enabled our institutions to look deeper at that dynamic. This conference will enable us to reflect, share best practice and experience, and build new networks around how student knowledge exchange can be meaningful for both students and public partners. In the process, it will enable us to improve how we use the Higher Education Innovation Fund, and to improve value for money for public funds.”

The conference, which is being co-curated by the University of Greenwich and Anglia Ruskin University, will also host a showcase, networking, and dinner event at The Box, the city’s new museum and history centre.

“Student knowledge exchange is about creating opportunities to bring students and academics together with businesses and the community to make a positive difference; building their self-confidence while also having the opportunity to hone their professional skills within a supportive and inclusive environment,” 

said Rupert Lorraine, Development and Partnership Manager in the University’s Research and Innovation directorate. 

“It’s something we do really well at the University of Plymouth, and we’re proud to be working as part of a wider community of professionals across the sector to drive forward this important civic agenda.”