Durham University study examines how outreach can support UK’s disadvantaged communities
(15 April 2011)
Durham University is undertaking a national study looking at the role the UK's universities can play in supporting disadvantaged communities.
The research aims to help universities use their resources to respond to their local communities' needs in the difficult economic climate.
The study is being supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Researchers will carry out a detailed survey of Higher Education institutions across the country to find out what universities are doing - and could do - to help disadvantaged communities.
The project will be looking for good examples of universities engaging positively with their local communities. It will also identify barriers that may discourage universities getting more involved.
The research project will be led by Professor Fred Robinson, of St Chad's College, Durham University, and Professor Ray Hudson, Durham's Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Partnerships & Engagement).
Professor Robinson said: "Many universities are already providing support to disadvantaged communities through a wide range of activities. Universities have considerable resources and can do a lot to help local communities.
"Our work will highlight what is being done and help universities consider what more they might do."
Nancy Kelley, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's Deputy Director of Research, said: "In line with the Foundation's focus on UK poverty, we are keen that universities do all they can to engage with and assist disadvantaged communities."
Durham University has been working to strengthen its own community role through a number of outreach initiatives. The University has an active Staff Volunteering and Outreach programme where University employees are allowed up to five days off a year to provide expertise and support to a wide range of community and voluntary organisations.
The University's Student Community Action group has more than 800 student volunteers involved in projects locally including music, drama, after-school clubs, litter picking and help with gardening and decorating for the elderly.
Sport also provides opportunities for outreach and Team Durham's Community Programme enables student coaches to work with local schools, clubs and hard-to-reach groups, including ex-offenders, the homeless, people suffering from substance misuse and vulnerable women.
Community engagement is now an important part of Durham University's Strategy. The University's outreach activities are focused on both County Durham and also Tees Valley, where the University's Queen's Campus is based.
Information about the Staff Volunteering and Outreach programme at Durham University can be found at: www.dur.ac.uk/volunteer/
Durham's staff volunteering scheme is "an amazing opportunity"
Durham University staff member Carol Bainbridge is giving back to her local community thanks to the institution's Staff Volunteering and Outreach programme.
Carol, 46, from Durham, works for the University's finance department as a costing supervisor.
She volunteers as the Chair of Governors at St Patrick's Roman Catholic Primary School, in Langley Moor, and she is a trustee of St Andrew's Youth Club, in Brandon. Carol also works for the County Durham Foundation, an organisation that awards grants to community projects.
As a result of breast cancer Carol, who has two children, underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in 1999.
She said: "To be honest, having breast cancer changes the way you look at life. You look at life differently and things that used to be problems aren't problems any more.
"I used to do volunteer work because I was asked, but now I do it because I enjoy it.
"The fact that Durham University offered the outreach volunteer scheme, which enables you to volunteer in work time, is an amazing opportunity.
"As Chair of Governors I will need to take a day off for Ofsted visits or interviewing, which I can use some work time for thanks to the University scheme.
"I like working at the University and the flexibility of staff volunteering, which really helps to keep the balance right."