We are a pioneering global institution firmly rooted in the Birmingham city-region and deeply embedded in our local communities. As England’s first civic university, where students from all religions and backgrounds were accepted on an equal basis, civic engagement is in our DNA. From our inception, we have sought to support the growth and development of both Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. More than a century on, we remain committed to ensuring the University is at the centre of our region’s renaissance.
A global university at the heart of an ambitious city, we're determined that our local communities share the benefits of our international reputation, global connections and world-class facilities. We see the contribution we can make economically, socially and culturally to our locality as core to our purpose. From helping local business adapt to technological change, to enhancing the health of local people, improving education opportunities and outcomes, and training and developing new community leaders, we are investing in meaningful initiatives that meet the needs of the local area. Through our teaching, research and partnerships, we are contributing towards the health of the city and the region’s business, communities and citizens.
Our contribution to education and skills
We know that education has a transformative effect, not only on the individual, but by reducing economic and social inequalities in the region. Through our world-class undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, as well as our degree apprenticeships, widening participation initiatives and educational partnerships, we’re helping to provide new pathways into education, broaden and deepen the West Midlands’ skills base and develop talent in the region.
Our Outreach team works specifically with students in the West Midlands who have the potential to succeed at University, but for a variety of reasons, may not have considered higher education a possibility. Through initiatives like our flagship Access-to-Birmingham (A2B)
scheme and our partnerships such as Aimhigher West Midlands
, we are helping schools to raise standards, attainment and aspirations in the region.
University of Birmingham School
We were the first University to open a secondary school with the aim of advancing the educational attainment and aspiration of Birmingham’s young people. The University of Birmingham School’s
academically non-selective admission policy draws in pupils from all backgrounds, reflecting the rich diversity of the city itself. The most oversubscribed comprehensive school in Birmingham, it uses the University’s research and facilities to create a strong learning environment for pupils across the city, raising awareness of higher education and increasing social mobility.
Improving talent development and skills
Many of our graduates remain in the West Midlands, providing a skilled workforce and contributing to the knowledge economy. We are developing entrepreneurs by supporting our students and graduates to start innovative new businesses and we facilitate knowledge exchange and skill development through placement modules, internships and volunteering. Our reverse mentoring scheme is improving graduate outcomes for under-represented groups in the region by allowing students to build on key transferable soft skills while our Future Leaders Certificate is equipping students and businesses with skills needed to prepare for the future of work and succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Our Degree Apprenticeship programmes help local companies to address the skills gaps identified within their businesses. They also enable them to recruit, develop and retain outstanding individuals with the skills needed as the business evolves.
Our engagement with stakeholders
Stakeholder engagement means that our teaching and research can be shared across the community, the general public and the business sector and delivers mutual benefit for both the University and our external partners. It ensures our work has impact and relevance beyond our campus and can lead to stronger research, lasting relationships and improved outcomes.
By engaging the public in a dialogue, we give people an insight into our work, provide opportunities for shared learning, amplify the positive impact of our research and build trust in what we do. We pride ourselves on being a university which is committed to purposeful engagement to open conversations, break down barriers and build new perspectives.
In 2012, we appointed Alice Roberts as our first Professor of Public Engagement in Science, and in 2020 she was the first recipient of the Royal Society’s David Attenborough Award for her outstanding contributions to public engagement ranging across medicine, anatomy, biology, evolution and archaeology. In 2018 we were awarded a Silver Watermark by the NCCPE in recognition of our commitments and achievements in public engagement and our plans to develop this work in the future.
Public events and engagement activities
Our varied programme of events and public engagement activities events sees us engage with thousands of people every year. These include: our public lectures, such as the Distinguished Events Series, Living with the Pandemic, Life Sciences in Six, Mathematics Lecture Series, EPS Distinguished Lectures; festivals such as Arts and Science Festival, Festival of Social Science, Green Heart Festival; exhibitions like Unfiltered Lives, Black Country Lungs, The Sketchbook and the Collider, Open Wide; summer schools and education series like Mini Medical School, Institute of Microbiology and Infection; and projects, for example, Astronomy in the City, Human Interface Technologies. These are just a snapshot of the myriad activities that take place across campus and further afield.
Our cultural assets, which include the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, the Lapworth Museum of Geology, Winterbourne House and Garden, and the Shakespeare Institute, allow us to deliver public engagement programmes targeted at specific audiences, sometimes linked to popular national campaigns such as Black History Month and The Big Draw, as well as collections and research-focused activities for expert audiences.
Birmingham in Action
The largest fundraising campaign ever launched in the Midlands, Birmingham in Action aims to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing society and to create more opportunities for young people from less advantaged backgrounds to access university. The campaign encourages people to make a gift of time or money to turn pioneering research into life-changing solutions. It also aims to support local communities by delivering up to one million hours of volunteering.
Though a campus university, we are part of a much wider local and regional community and give special importance to engagement with those who live around us. We strive to be a good neighbour, to establish strong lines of communication with our local communities and to develop positive relationships with our community members. We want people to share the benefits of our presence and see us as an asset to the locality, the city and the wider region.
From concerts marking the Chinese New Year to a celebration of the anniversary of the founder of Sikh faith, we welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors throughout the year for a diverse programme of community events and educational trips, harnessing our knowledge, resources and visitor attractions for the benefit of our communities. We also host large community-facing events aimed at surrounding neighbourhoods, including our Community Day and the Birmingham Proms. These free events open Birmingham’s beautiful and historic campus to the wider community. Not only do they provide opportunities for interaction, they bring a genuine dialogue and help people to better understand the value of what we do.
Civic University Agreement
The University of Birmingham has joined 30 other institutions – which include many of the best-known names in higher education - in producing a “Civic University Agreement” in partnership with local government and other major institutions. The agreement covers four related thematic areas, all of which contribute to our civic engagement: education and skills, public engagement, research and innovation and policy and public sector support.
We work closely with the region's business and industry, from larger corporates to SMEs and local start-ups, exchanging knowledge and expertise to help them become more competitive. By working together, we contribute towards the region’s economic regeneration and help to secure Birmingham’s future as an important centre for business and innovative industry.
We were proud to be an Official Partner of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, after we signed the most comprehensive university partnership agreement in the history of the Games. The Games represented a huge opportunity for our region, and were thrilled to build on our sporting history and civic commitments while playing our part to showcase the West Midlands on the global stage.
Birmingham Health Innovation Campus
Birmingham Health Innovation Campus (BHIC), due to open in 2022, will harness life sciences expertise and infrastructure across the West Midlands while bringing new commercial power to the region to accelerate life sciences research, attracting significant inward investment and creating high-value jobs in the region.
Our Business Engagement team works with key regional partners to develop academic-industry links and strategic business partnerships. The services we offer to local business partners include everything from consultancy and advice to conferences, events and seminars, continuing professional development, student placement and employment. We help businesses to tap into our pioneering research through our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, giving them cost-effective access to our expertise and leading-edge technology and equipment. Our reverse mentoring scheme also helps businesses improve skills and diversity using untapped graduate talent, to support sustainable and inclusive growth.
Our strategic partners include firms with a major West Midlands presence, such as Network Rail, KPMG, Mondelez, HSBC UK, and Rolls- Royce through our High Temperature Research Centre (HTRC) and work at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Ansty. We are also focused on promoting a culture of innovation around the city and the region by working with individual entrepreneurs, spotting and developing academic talent and supporting new business start-ups. Companies formed at the University work actively and closely with local industry.
City-REDI (City Region Economic and Development Institute) was established in May 2015 to support regional economic growth policy and practice. Its analytical tools and policy inputs are greatly valued by regional stakeholders, including Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority and help to shape local approaches to inclusive economic development. Building on the success of City-REDI, WM REDI has a central mission to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the West Midlands and across the UK. It has been tasked with providing an up-to-date monitor of the current COVID-19 economic impacts to help regional partners shape responses and interventions to ensure the region continues to thrive.
Through City-REDI, we lead the Midlands Economic Observatory partnership. Midlands Engine, a partnership of local and combined authorities, local enterprise partnerships, universities and businesses, has commissioned the observatory with helping to invigorate the £207 billion Midlands economy and deliver its vision for growth. The Observatory’s Independent Economic Review provides economic analysis of current opportunities and weaknesses and offers a powerful resource for Government, policy-makers, investors and wider stakeholders.
Collaboration with local authorities
We have strong links with Birmingham City Council and collaborate on issues affecting the city. For over 50 years, our Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV) has worked with local government and the public sector to enhance practice through academic insight. Its 21st Century Public Service research has established a new framing for the public service workforce which has been adopted by a diverse range of beneficiaries, including Birmingham City Council, police, fire, and health organisations. In consultation with key stakeholders in Birmingham City Council, the England Illegal Moneylending Team and the Gambling Commission, our academics carried out a rapid assessment review of problem gambling in Birmingham. We collaborated with the city council on a £1 million plan to revive the city’s almost-forgotten Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library through the ‘Everything to Everybody’ project. We also joined forces to deliver USE-IT! (Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together), helping to develop new mechanisms to unlock the potential of poor communities and connect them to the resources they need in order to remain resilient and escape poverty.
We work closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority on meaningful initiatives for the region and have actively contributed to Commissions that have been set up by the WMCA and Mayor. Our work on the financial impact of poor mental health in the region fed into West Midlands Mental Health Commission which aimed to transform the way people with mental health problems are treated by public services and employers and was linked to the WMCA Thrive strategy to tackle Youth Mental Health. Our research in leadership and superdiversity also made a significant contribution to the WMCA’s Leadership Commission Report ‘Leaders Like You’ which seeks to address the leadership diversity gap.
Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce
We are a patron of Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce (GBCC), a membership-based business support organisation that exists to connect its members to a wide range of business opportunities. Working in collaboration, GBCC and the University’s City-REDI produce the annual Birmingham Economic Review, providing a unique insight into Birmingham’s economic geography, skills, key sectors and opportunities and challenges facing the region. By improving the links between our expertise, the potential of our students and the needs of businesses, our partnership with the Chamber helps us to make a stronger contribution to the Birmingham region.
Manufacturing Technology Centre
We are a founding partner in the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) based at Ansty in Coventry, which has over 50 member companies and offers a unique facility for manufacturers to develop new and innovative processes and technologies in a low-risk environment.
Our Policy and Public Sector Support
We believe that by taking a collaborative approach with key organisations in the region and promoting evidence-based practice, we can be more effective in making a transformative impact in communities and the wider region. We are committed to collaborating with public and third-sector partners to respond jointly to regional and national challenges in areas such as health, education, energy, social inequality, and the coronavirus outbreak. Through these partnerships, we are making a demonstrable contribution to regional development and prosperity.
Our role in research and innovation
Our founding mission was to use research and teaching to accelerate the potential of a forward-thinking, industrious city. Today, we remain committed to using our strengths in research and education to enhance wellbeing across the region and to working with strategic partners to deliver research impact and create new commercial opportunities which help drive regional growth.
Regional research partners
We are part of Midlands Innovation, a world-class research and innovation partnership, combining the collective strength of leading universities in the Midlands to drive cutting-edge research, innovation and skills development. We are a partner of Midlands Innovation Health (MI Health), which draws together a critical mass of innovative regional stakeholders to tackle national and global health challenges. We are also a leading member of the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA), funded by Innovate UK with match funding and support supplied by a range of industrial partners, which aims to undertake innovative research, develop the next generation of energy leaders, and demonstrate low carbon technologies that help to shape the future of the UK’s energy landscape.
We have invested in the development of Tyseley Energy Park to work towards overcoming the region’s energy, business and social challenges. Tyseley Energy Park and the Energy Capital partnership will help to deliver a greener ecosystem for the West Midlands and shape the way the City of Birmingham develops infrastructure for renewable heat and power, energy storage and clean transport fuels.
To support the improvement of air quality and associated health, environmental, and economic benefits in the West Midlands we have established WM-Air - The West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme. The programme involves collaboration with key partners and brings together a multi-disciplinary team to tackle regional air quality issues and to develop policy toolkits to reduce air pollution in the West Midlands.