Communiversity - Values in Action
What's this research about?
This project aims to significantly increase the effectiveness, level of engagement, and degree of student participation in community-based activities within the participating Cathedrals Group (CG) universities by producing an evaluative toolkit to help institutions better implement such activities. Whilst such projects are widespread in higher education (HE) and within the CG, there is limited guidance on what works and why. Such projects also seek to meet several goals: widening access to education; connecting students to public and community services and creating opportunities for students to work collaboratively alongside staff on community-facing development projects. This submission, by using a common method of evaluation, will enable participating CG members, and the wider CG institutions, to understand, demonstrate and share the value in how church universities work, can engage with the Church of England’s Vision for HE, and work with students and their communities to enhance their education, embed a positive ethos and serve vulnerable groups in society.
Why is this important?
It seems timely in a fast-changing world, that the role of universities is continuously evolving with ongoing challenges of retention and career opportunities. This will particularly be the case in the recovery that shapes the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Around half of all young people still continue to choose to attend universities, hence we play a critical role not only in the transfer of knowledge, but in the wider socialisation of, and support for students to become engaged active citizens who positively influence the world around them. Now more than ever students will be looking for more than a degree programme.
Church universities are aware of this role, and collectively as members of this organisation we (through our respective institutions) have continuously emphasised our responsibility to educate the whole person; promoting moral, intellectual, spiritual, physical, and emotional growth. A significant way we do this is through restorative projects where academics work with students to connect them with local and vulnerable communities, often through direct ties to Church-based initiatives. This resonates with and reflects our church foundations and collaborative ethos. We want to better understand what it is about the way we do this work that makes it effective, build a stronger evidence base of our impact and embed a deeper understanding of how our Christian ethos connects to and is realised through the work our universities do.
Funded by The Church of England:
The Church Universities Fund makes grants which will help enhance the Anglican character of Church universities and/or to enhance Anglican chaplaincy provision in those institutions. The Church of England supports Higher Education in many ways including through The Cathedrals Group (comprised of 16 universities), which was originally set up to train teachers for church schools. All are now universities in their own right and 12 of them include a Church of England foundation. They educate around 100,000 students a year.
Who's involved in this project?
The four lead universities proposing to include projects in this evaluation are: the University of Cumbria (lead institution), Liverpool Hope University, Roehampton University and York St John University. Our partnership deliberately includes institutions affiliated with different strands of the Christian Church to enhance shared learning and build an evidence base of common practice that can be applied across the Church universities and more widely. To view our project findings download our final project report here.
Professor Sally Elton-Chalcraft | University of Cumbria
We aim to develop Communiversity projects with our student teachers, volunteering and outdoor learning initiatives working with young people outside the school provision context e.g. in volunteering with community youth programmes, supporting Free School Meals children and their families in an effective knowledge exchange capacity.
Dr Catherine O'Connell | Liverpool Hope University
We would link a new project to two current Communiversity-oriented action research projects - the Hope Challenge education partnership in Merseyside and the Old Courts arts complex in Wigan. Each are about developing educational programmes to support social inclusion and community enterprise, with the latter directly involved in working with the local parish church in an area that has been left behind.
Mr Adam Hewitt | York St John University
We will utilise our Prison Partnership initiative, which sees students from creative courses going into a nearby women’s prison on a weekly basis to work restoratively with the women supporting a range of learning opportunities (such as music and drama). We will use the opportunity of this project to expand the Prison Partnership into working with more students from education courses to broaden their teaching perspectives and experiences.
Dr Melissa Jogie | University of Roehampton
We would aim to offer a new project 'Gardening & Gums', which tackles oral hygiene with particular focus on gum care, by forming a partnership with with dental care experts, parents in the local community and university students through our Growhampton initiative (Roehampton’s sustainability agenda) a current programme which works with our local university community to provide students with opportunities to learn more about sustainable food/environmental practices and serve the broader community.