King’s College London today shared its Strategic Vision 2029 with London partners, and potential partners, at a breakfast launch jointly hosted by the President & Principal, Professor Edward Byrne AC, and Assistant Principal (London), Deborah Bull.
The launch brought together representatives from London’s businesses, local communities, charities, universities, schools, local and national government and others, to hear about Vision 2029 and the five key strategic priorities, one of which is to establish King’s as a civic university at the heart of London.
Speaking to those in attendance, Deborah Bull outlined the vision held by the university to promote and strengthen connections to London:
‘As we worked collectively over the last year to shape our ambitions to 2029, it quickly became clear that London would be central to the vision – that London is integral to King’s success and that King’s should be integral to the health, wellbeing and success of this great capital city. We’re proud to be a global institution and we take seriously our global responsibilities – from the help we gave to Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak, to the university’s Sanctuary programme in response to the global refugee crisis.
But we also take seriously our role in – and responsibility to – the city and the communities around us: whether here at the Strand, at our campus in Denmark Hill, or over at Guy’s.
London was recently ranked the best university city in the world – and it’s not hard to see why. The concentration of expertise, opportunity and local, national and international networks that is London are at the heart of our vision – to be of London, for the world.
Making the most of London and its manifold opportunities means being open: open to new people, new partners and new ideas – and our strategic vision sets out three ways in which we plan to do this.
First, we want to deepen our connections across London – with its businesses, agencies, policy-makers and institutions.
These are the partnerships that will help our students make the most out of London, as a place to live, learn, and to contribute – ensuring they graduate with the skills, knowledge, experience and values that will help them succeed: not just in their chosen careers but as active, engaged citizens.
And it’s these partnerships with London that will enable our academics to continue to deliver ground-breaking research that helps the city address its key challenges and opportunities. King’s research is already making a tangible difference to Londoners’ lives – for example, by helping to tackle absenteeism at London’s 999 emergency call centres; by supporting mental health awareness and treatment in schools; or by monitoring air quality across the city. Building ever closer partnerships with London will mean we can do even more.
But we recognise that the world’s great challenges are unlikely to be solved by working alone. And so our second ambition is to extend our partnerships with London’s higher education institutions – working together to consider shared challenges that will be most effectively addressed through collaboration and cooperation.
We already work closely with London’s other world-class universities – and many of them are represented here today. From the Crick Institute to the London Arts & Humanities Partnership, working collaboratively allows us to pool resources, infrastructure, skills and expertise – and we look forward to doing even more over the coming years to achieve great things together.
The third ambition we’ve set out is to deepen our relationships in the boroughs in which we’re based – connecting with local organisations, schools, FE colleges, charities and local authorities to establish King’s as a civic university at the heart of London.
We know that this concept of a civic university is more normally associated with institutions that grew out of local need – the so-called redbrick universities founded in response to skills shortages in 19th century industrial Britain. But it’s a term we’ve knowingly and consciously embraced – a term that sums up our ambition to be not just a good neighbour to the communities around us, but an integral component of a vibrant local neighbourhood.
We are, of course, already embedded in the communities in which we make our home, not least through King’s Health Partners, Europe’s largest Academic Health Sciences Centre. This partnership with three of the UK’s leading NHS Foundation Trusts brings together world class research, education and clinical practice for the benefit of patients, ensuring that lessons from research are put swiftly into practice, improving mental and physical healthcare services for local communities.
And it’s exactly this kind of deep relationship that allows us to connect the local to the global – generating knowledge locally that has transnational impact. As you saw in that short film, our Somaliland partnership leverages insights drawn from working with the local Somali population in Lambeth to inform healthcare reform in Somaliland itself.
And we’ve already heard how our students are making an active contribution to local communities. According to Universities UK, over 1/3rd of the country’s student population volunteers locally – and King’s students are no exception: from the SMILE dentists, through the King’s branch of the global Enactus movement, to the Hot Chocolate Society, which sees students going out on to the streets to provide food for London’s homeless communities.
So there’s much to build on, but we believe we can – and we must – do more. Over the coming years, we want to work closely with our neighbours to develop the King’s Local Partners programme – through symbiotic relationships that deliver benefits to our local communities while generating new opportunities for academics and students – across research, education and service.
As London grows ever more complex, we believe universities have a key role to play in ensuring local communities thrive: providing not only the analytical and theoretical skills that support local place-making, but also animating and rejuvenating shared public spaces, supporting the local economy, developing skills and capacity and bringing together diverse voices to spark new ideas and opportunities.
The process we went through last year as we developed this vision to 2029 uncovered a huge appetite across King’s to do more to serve society – an appetite that aligns with the interests of both our current and future students: 92% of Generation Z – our student cohort over the next decade – believe that ‘helping others is important’, while 70% ‘worry greatly’ about inequality. And if this wasn’t reason enough, the deep social divisions exposed over the last year have underlined the imperative for universities to rediscover their civic role, supporting the communities of which they are a part and learning from them – working in partnership to co-create knowledge that benefits the city, the country and the world.
We cannot do any of this on our own and so my final words are a call to action: please do get in touch and let us know how we can work together to make the most of London’s world-class institutions, its diverse communities and the skills, networks and knowledge that we collectively muster.
By working together, we really can make the world a better place.’