£1.2m grant for UEA 'outreach'

STEVE DOWNES UEA was last night handed £1.2m as part of a nationwide drive to help universities shed their image as “ivory towers”.

STEVE DOWNES

UEA was last night handed £1.2m as part of a nationwide drive to help universities shed their image as "ivory towers".

The money will be used to help UEA and five other English universities to form links with artists, schools, sports clubs, galleries and other organisations and to get thousands of people interested in science and the arts.

The university has been chosen as one of six beacons for the four-year pilot scheme to develop a host of new ways to reach out to the community.

And for the first time, UEA will have a permanent presence outside its campus, with a "one-stop-shop" in the Forum in Norwich for anyone interested in what it does.

Announcing the handout, science minister Ian Pearson said: "By increasing active public engagement with scientists and the issues we can help enthuse our young people to be the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists."

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Project manager Julie Worrall said UEA hoped to build on the work done by the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, which reaches 10,000 children each year, and the Teacher Scientist Network, which provides science kits for schools and links academics with science teachers to help them to keep up with developments in the industry.

She said: "This is about going out to communities and working with schools, pupils, teachers and parents, and having activities similar to last year's BA Festival of Science.

"We want to encourage people to think about science and the arts. We will now have the money and the opportunity to get involved with lots more activities and projects."

Mrs Worrall added: "We want to enable academics to engage more with the public and encourage the public to question things."

Funded by the UK higher education funding councils and Research Councils UK (RCUK), and supported by the Wellcome Trust, it is the biggest initiative ever launched to support public engagement throughout the UK.

Six beacons are to be set up in Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. There will also be a UK-wide co-ordinating centre based in Bristol.

The local beacon, Community University Engagement East (CUE East), will help staff and students to engage more constructively with the public.

CUE East will build on the 2006 BA Festival of Science and on successful initiatives such as CRed and involvement with the BBC Voices project.

CUE East has 22 external partners, including Norfolk Ambition, Norwich City Council, the Norfolk Museums Service, Norwich and Norfolk Voluntary Services, the EDP and BBC East. The partners will play a vital role in the university's delivery programme.

UEA pro-vice-chancellor Prof Edward Acton said: "We are extremely pleased to have had our community engagement activity recognised. By establishing UEA as a beacon we now have the chance to build upon our excellent work and engage with an even wider audience in the community."

Prof David Eastwood, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England and former UEA vice chancellor, said: "This initiative addresses the perception that universities are dominated by a research-driven culture giving academics little time to engage with the public.

"The beacons will help to change that perception by recognising, rewarding and supporting public engagement across all higher education activities and building capacity to do so in all subjects."

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