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Students seated in lecture hall
A new online platform aims to connect students to their 'adopted' cities.

Academics and professional services staff at the University of Birmingham have joined European colleagues to create a new online platform aimed at connecting universities to their home cities – strengthening the links between ‘town and gown’.

And they are now inviting people from companies and organisations across Birmingham, the West Midlands, and Europe to join them for a special virtual launch and tour of the Civic Leadership platform on 23 November.

The launch takes place from 14:00-15:30 CET / 13:00-14:30 GMT – and registering for the event is free.

Funded by EUniWell (the European University of Well-being), the project brings together a team from the University of Birmingham, Linnaeus University, Sweden, and the University of Cologne, Germany.

Our shared vision – whether in the UK, Sweden or Germany – is to provide a learning environment where we help students to become responsible citizens. We believe that, as it evolves, our fledgling Civic Leadership platform will become an online resource that connects ‘town and gown' – linking universities, their staff and their students ever more strongly with their home cities and regions."

Julian Pänke - University of Birmingham project lead

Aimed at students and academics, as well as city and regional partners, for the target groups, the platform will:

  • Students: highlight civic engagement opportunities, short courses, internship opportunities, and mentoring opportunities across the EUniWell network
  • Academics: Share best practice in civic leadership – such as case studies on module design and education toolkits.
  • External partners: create opportunities to connect with academics and announce internships and projects for students.

University of Birmingham project lead Julian Pänke commented: “Our shared vision – whether in the UK, Sweden or Germany – is to provide a learning environment where we help students to become responsible citizens.

“We believe that, as it evolves, our fledgling Civic Leadership platform will become an online resource that connects ‘town and gown’ – linking universities, their staff and their students ever more strongly with their home cities and regions.

“We hope that this will help students to recognise themselves as members of a larger social fabric and play an active role in helping to resolve social problems in their surrounding communities.”

The online platform will also feature a chat and forum function on the platform so people can connect with each other. As well as Liberal Arts academics, the Birmingham team included an Enterprise Educator from the University’s Careers Network.

Staff across the three universities have developed the online space to share best practice on how to engage with local communities along with practical steps showing how universities can be key partners in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The project takes advantage of the multiple entrepreneurial skills that students gain from learning in intercultural contexts within the EUniWell network. It builds on each of the three universities’ established links between leadership, innovation, and enterprise education to foster civic leadership.