Memorandum of Understanding signed to reaffirm University commitment to civic duty in Birmingham

Careers Network’s B-Enterprising Team with Sir David Eastwood, Bob Sleigh
Careers Network’s B-Enterprising Team with Sir David Eastwood, Bob Sleigh and Ian Ward (Nicola Gotts Photography)

The University of Birmingham, Birmingham City Council (BCC) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have signed a historic Civic University Agreement as a Memorandum of Understanding in front of key regional stakeholders celebrating the Civic Launch of the Exchange.

The agreement will see the University of Birmingham work jointly with BCC and WMCA to enhance and develop their civic commitment and role in Birmingham, with wide-ranging collaborative programmes which will contribute towards the development of the city and wider region.

The agreement covers four, related thematic areas, all of which contribute to the civic engagement: education and skills, public engagement, research and innovation, policy and public sector support.

Key priorities are proposed within each of these areas. Given the scale and breadth of the University’s engagements in the region the focus is on major areas of activity and investment, including the Birmingham Health Innovation Campus, the Energy Innovation Hub, the launch of The Exchange in Birmingham city centre, and the University’s Official Partnership with Birmingham 2022 supporting the delivery of a successful Games for the city and region. As part of these activities, and more broadly, the University also plans to increase its public engagement across the city-region.

Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham said: "The University of Birmingham since its inception in 1900 under our first chancellor Joseph Chamberlain has always embraced the role that universities should play a civic role in contributing to regional growth and opportunities. It was founded as the UK’s first civic university, a university that would work in partnership with the city’s elected bodies, commerce and industry to deliver benefits for citizens that extend well beyond higher education. This remains core to our purpose. We have signed this Civic University Agreement at the Exchange which is our new epicentre of civic engagement. As the official partner of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and also playing a leading role as we come out of the pandemic, the University of Birmingham will strengthen our relationships with our partners and continue contributing to the development and success of our city and region."

Councillor Bob Sleigh, Deputy Mayor of the West Midlands and co-signatory of the Civic University Agreement said: "The University of Birmingham has a proud history of civic involvement as has been clear during the COVID-19 pandemic through its medical research. The University is also playing an important part in regional development through City-REDI’s economic forecasts for the West Midlands, its energy and air pollution research, and its support to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as an official partner. We look forward to working with the University of Birmingham as we continue to tackle challenges such as meeting our environmental commitments and supporting inclusive growth."

Councillor Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council said: "This welcome agreement underlines the University of Birmingham’s ongoing commitment to working collaboratively, not just with Birmingham City Council, but with our local partners and communities.

"As an official partner of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the University is a key player in Birmingham and we already collaborate on a number of important projects, from tackling air pollution to the Everything to Everybody project, which celebrates our cultural riches.

"Now, this agreement strengthens our relationship with Britain’s first civic University, as we work together to address issues such as inclusive growth, health inequalities and reaching net zero."

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in front of guests at the Grade II listed Exchange which was once the Municipal Bank situated opposite Centenary Square and the Library of Birmingham. Originally designed by architect T Cecil Howitt in the Monumental Classical architectural style, the Exchange is the hub of engagement, knowledge and skills, which will provide an important opportunity for the University to enhance its role in Britain’s second city.

The Exchange aims to reinvigorate the city’s civic vision for the modern day by using the University’s role as an anchor institution to bring together multiple stakeholders to address the challenges of our time, and deliver inclusive growth for the region. The approach will bring the University’s research closer to people, enabling its work to inform and be informed by its audiences and providing dedicated facilities for collaboration.