Inspiring Futures students - desk

The University of Plymouth is to receive almost half a million pounds in funding to enhance the work it’s doing to help students develop valuable employability skills while simultaneously supporting the region’s economy.

The £499,000 of funding from the Office for Students and Research England will enable the University to advance its Knowledge Exchange work, with a particular focus on understanding and maximising the benefits to students of working with business and community partners and bodies.

The project includes the creation of a dedicated ‘KE Academy’ that will prepare, train and equip students with the professional skills and behaviours required to deliver knowledge exchange in a variety of settings, including businesses, the public sector, social enterprises and communities.

The University is expecting around 1,300 students from within its Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business to take part over the course of the two-year project.

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor, said:

“Knowledge Exchange is a powerful tool supporting any university’s civic mission, and the University of Plymouth has a significant track record in stimulating and supporting regional economic growth and productivity. This funding will enable us to further strengthen our engagement locally, nationally and beyond and to harness the creative and intellectual talent that resides within our students and staff.”

Professor Judith Petts CBE – Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer

The project, which with funding from the University is worth a total of £628,000, will work with partners across the region including local multi award-winning charity, Plymouth Music Zone (PMZ). The flagship community music organisation works across health and social care sectors using music to engage a diverse range of often marginalised or vulnerable communities.

The community music charity’s Chief Executive, Debbie Geraghty, said:

“We’re so thrilled to be part of this innovative Knowledge Exchange project with the University of Plymouth. We’ve previously partnered with its academics sharing world leading research around the use of music and how it impacts on community cohesion and wellbeing and there was much to learn. We believe there is much of value students can experience about diversity and inclusion within the community and arts sectors, and we know how much they can share in return. We look forward to a very impactful and exciting exchange.”

Read about Plymouth Music Zone's success in the 2020 Hearts for the Arts Awards

Debbie Geraghty, PMZ Executive Director

The project will see the expansion of a number of existing skills development and external projects, such as the award-winning Plymouth Law Clinic, in which students provide pro bono help to the public, Inspiring Futures, where students deliver consultancy projects for local companies and iMayflower, which is delivering a range of innovative Research and Development placement opportunities to help firms develop new products, processes, services and experiences.

Law Clinic
Inspiring Futures students - flipchart
The bridge

In funding the creation of a dedicated KE Academy, it will also seek to help students make the most of their experiences working with businesses, better translate and articulate them on their CVs, and identify and remove any barriers that might prevent more students engaging with these opportunities.

Dr Bonnie Latimer, Project Lead and Associate Dean for Education & Student Experience, said:

“The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business has a strong record of working with partners in our local business sectors as well as the community. We also maintain a strong focus on retaining graduate talent in the region. This project will bring those aspects together as we look towards an important period of recovery for Plymouth and the South West, and then the growth that we hope lies beyond.”

As part of the project, the University has committed to sharing its findings with the higher education sector, which it will do through case studies and success stories, reports, and an online student knowledge exchange toolkit.

Rupert Lorraine, Development and Partnership Manager in Research and Innovation, added:

“We are delighted to have been successful in securing funding from this flagship competition and to build on the Faculty’s current portfolio of externally funded, collaborative KE projects collectively worth over £15.5 million. The project will allow us to develop new ways to enhance students’ skills and abilities, deliver support to businesses and communities and tackle head-on the barriers affecting equality of opportunity and diversity and inclusion.”