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The University of Northampton is situated in the heart of England and offers various subjects at undergraduate and postgraduate level. The University is globally renowned in subject specialisms such as Wastes Management, Leather Technology and Fashion. We have over 14,000 students across two campuses just 2.5 miles apart and offer hundreds of courses to meet all needs and interests.
The University of Northampton’s mission is to ‘transform lives and inspire change’. We do this by putting our students at the heart of our strategic plan Transforming Lives + Inspiring Change. As a member of the international Ashoka U group of universities (a designated Changemaker campus, we are committed to our Changemaker values, which focus on higher education to achieve a positive social impact. These values underpin all our teaching, learning, employability, research and enterprise.
As one of the few universities to be ranked Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), we know that sharing knowledge, supporting creativity and striving to make a positive difference will change the future. What motivates us is the drive to help people make the changes that will transform their lives
We are one of the youngest universities in the UK but we are already leading the way in adding value to society, which we call social impact. We have won multiple awards for our work in this area, among others, but what matters the most to us is ensuring that our students and graduates have the opportunity to make their mark on the world too. That’s why we were the first university in the UK to be named as a Changemaker Campus in 2012.
We want to break the mould of what Higher Education can be. This has led us to build a whole new University from the ground up that is designed to reflect the way that you actually learn rather than the way you are expected to learn.
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Social Impact Statements
The Social Enterprise Mark criteria includes a requirement that the applicant can demonstrate that social and/or environmental objectives are being achieved.
In support of this, new applicants and renewing Mark holders are asked to respond to a set of social impact questions, which are designed to help them think about the social impact they create, and to articulate this clearly and succinctly.
Updated June 2021
1) What are the main social differences you have aimed to make (or supported)?
UON has adopted four Changemaker Challenges as a way of focusing social impact in communities:
- Make Northamptonshire the best county in the UK for children and young people to flourish and learn
- Make Northamptonshire the leading county in the UK for Health and Wellbeing
- Make Northamptonshire recognised globally for its culture, heritage and quality of environment
- Make Northamptonshire the best place in the UK to start, build and run a business
These were and continue to be embedded in the strategic plan.
Up until our move to Waterside, we adopted a story telling approach to gathering and reporting the impact we were having and supporting this approach with quantitative indicators.
With the adoption of the 2025 vision for the university as the world leader in social innovation we have adopted a fresh approach that looks at how across the institution we measure our contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.) This has required us to examine, across our research, Estates, Learning and Teaching departments how we create social impact through what we do, not only as a result of what we do.
The University has taken the decision to submit to Times Higher Education Impact League tables in Jan 2021. Up to the date of the submission, work is advanced on the REF against the SDGs and the estates dept have adopted the sustainable dashboard to capture how our estates spend impacts on the SDGs.
The University has undertaken a comprehensive review of how our research aligns with and contributes to the SDGs, and work is currently underway to map this contribution ahead of our submission to The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. Related to this work, we also contributed to the University Impact assessment led by Kings College London titled Advancing University Engagement: University engagement and global league tables, which showcased the University’s work in establishing Northampton as a Social Enterprise Place with SEUK, as well as assessing our impact in a number of key areas, highlighting the University as a global impact lead with regards to strategic engagement, student support on entering University (linking back to our in-depth work around Access and Participation Plans) and also in relation to our publication of non-academic outputs related to impact.
As part of an institution wide curriculum portfolio review, work has begun to look at how our curriculum already contributes to the SDGs and how we make our curriculum more aligned to sustainability and social impact. Examples of existing work in this area can be found in the Changemaker Awards brochures where academics are rewarded for such activity and the plan is by 2025 all our programmes will be able to articulate how social impact is created through the L&T process. This builds upon the work completed through the ChANGE programme, which embedded our Changemaker commitment into learning outcomes. The intention is that by adopting an institutional wide approach to capturing and measuring social impact through its contribution to the SDGs we will be able to demonstrate how through everything we do we make a positive social change. This review is also linked into the plan to submit to the THE Impact Rankings in January 2021.
2) What actions have you taken to deliver the aims described above?
In August 2020 the University produced a report detailing its work to support the local community through the Covid-19 crisis. The report detailed the University’s work in supporting students, the staff furlough scheme (and our student recruitment Unitemps Furlough scheme) and the University’s commitment to top-up furloughed staff’s pay to 100%, our work supporting the NHS through the provision of accommodation, testing spaces and student volunteers. The report and the full impact can be found here.
As noted earlier, the University is committed to the delivery and evaluation of its Access and Participation Plan (APP), to both support students upon entering university and then continuously throughout their studies. The APP at the University is focused on closing the gap in retention and attainment between white and BAME students, as well as ensuring that students from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or experiencing multiple protected characteristics, are able to have a positive experience in higher education and attain their goals in education and life. The University adopts an evidence-led approach to this, by conducting an annual evaluation of its widening participation work, with a new 5 year plan for the 2020-2025 period being underpinned by a PhD study on the University’s Widening Access work, that was completed in 2019.
As referenced under our core social purposes, namely “To be a strategic institution for the development and delivery of positive social change”, our Estates team have continued to compliment and support the biodiversity work that the university’s academic colleagues are engaged with and continue to work collaboratively with building partners, current contractors and the community to be a beacon of good sustainable environmental management focused around our Carbon Management Plan. The university's Carbon Management Plan and Investors in the Environment Certification shows our commitment to positive social change with excellent progress against the targets set within the plan.
One can see from the Changemaker Awards brochures 2017,18 & 19, examples of specific actions and impact that University staff and students have had within the county and beyond through the Changemaker Challenges. Two examples that stand out are:
Roy Wallace, Changemaker Lecturer of the year 2017: Roy supports students to find their own voice and way of effecting change in the world; assisting them to set up social ventures that enable them to express themselves and their passion for creating a better world. He has redesigned his third-year module so that students support a Northamptonshire community sector organisation, providing them with short promotional videos to help their cause and increase their community impact. Roy was also instrumental in putting together the Transition series of events held at the Phoenix Club in the centre of town to highlight issues such as gender, race and feminism.
Bethel Tadesse, Changemaker Student of the Year 2018: Bethel is a recent Joint Honours Education and Social Care graduate who is passionate about women’s rights and women’s health. This passion and her experience of volunteering with several organisations led her to launch her own enterprise, Hidden Scars. Founded in February 2015, Hidden Scars’ aim is to inform professionals and students about Female Genital Mutilation with the overall aim of reducing the practice. The project, that works mainly in Northampton and Leeds, also works with schools and foodbanks to provide disadvantaged girls with sanitary products. The development of Hidden Scars was underpinned by Bethel’s professionalism and desire to make a difference. Her actions truly reflect the transformational practice that underpins the University’s Changemaker approach; using your education to make a difference in areas that matter most.
3) What has changed, what specific outcomes and benefits have been realised as a result of the above actions?
The University’s course validation process now includes Changemaker as part of the validation process. This is for all new courses and is driving knowledge and understanding of social enterprise across the student and teaching staff body.
Course and module placements with community groups and CICs are now fully funded by the university to enable students to develop their employability skills with social enterprises, this not only benefits students who are keen to develop their understanding of social enterprise organisations, and obviously the organisation itself, but also the university in its determination to develop our reputation as a leader in social innovation and enterprise as well as a supper supportive institution for our local, regional and national community
Working closely and part-funding a colleague within the Local Authority with a contribution of £15K pa, UON ensures the aims of the Military Covenant are monitored and achieved. This is crucial in our aim of supporting underrepresented groups into higher education. The Covid 19 pandemic has this year limited the work we have been able to achieve on this focus however. As an ongoing signatory this will not limit the ambitions of our commitment.
County Schools and FECs have benefited from the £25,000 match funding between UON’s UniConnect project and The CEC of a SEMLEP Enterprise Co-ordinator enabling a closer working relationship to develop between the UniConnect programme and SEMLEP to the benefit of all our target schools in how they access labour marking information and careers advice and guidance for students and careers leaders in schools
Supporting Knowledge Exchange through businesses and academic community sharing best practice, through our industry led forums, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, collaborative funding bids. Through our new BIIG scheme we have supported businesses and organisations across the county to develop products and services – including creating an underwater experience for people with disabilities. BIIG is now in its 3rd year.
UON has become increasingly successful at engaging with organisations across the county to access expertise. We work closely with partners across the county such as Public Health and local authorities to develop business support schemes for start-up organisations, developing ageing workforce support for businesses in partnership with Public Health Northamptonshire.
Community engagement is an aspect of our work that is very much championed, recognised and supported by the university through the Changemaker Hub team. There are many examples of community engagement that are highlighted through our Changemaker Awards evening celebrations under The Changemaker Community Initiative of the Year Award which have been referenced throughout this pre-assessment, however several stand out as significantly benefitting communities:
Powerful Nonsense was founded by two University of Northampton alumni. They are on a mission to support millennials to live more intentionally by building a life that fosters purposeful, transformative experiences. Every week they produce a podcast with the aim of decoding what it means to live a good life in modern times. Powerful nonsense has worked very closely over several years with the Changemaker Team on campus to support and inspire undergraduates achieve their ambitions and realise their potential, supporting and developing our undergraduate's employability and social responsibility.
Imagine a Day uses drama and role play workshops to develop empathy for others and to allow participants to explore and understand situations from different viewpoints. The workshops have been delivered in a variety of ways including conflict resolution in Kosovo and a programme of workshops delivered to Northamptonshire primary and secondary target school children to empower them to engage with their learning. The Imagine a Day student leaders developed, wrote, delivered and evaluated the project’s impact on school children and communities which has ensured its longevity across schools and communities.
Nlive, the University's community radio, with a daily reach of 20,000 listeners provides an excellent community information service in the town. The station manager has developed strong links with target school projects as well as providing a crucial aspect of the media and journalism degrees at the university to support students with work experience and practical work within their courses, in effect supporting and developing their employability skills and allowing them to stand out from the crowd at interview.
4) Please describe how your income and/or any profits generated from previous years has been maximised in delivering social outputs and adding social value.
Our income is focused on the delivery of targeted support for our students. Any profit we make, is ploughed back into delivering a positive student experience as well as enabling students to be successful.
Students are supported when they enrol in year 1 with a care package that enables them to engage effectively with our ABL model of learning and teaching. Students can opt for a £500 support package, the most popular aspect being a Laptop. We also fund essential trips that are part of the students’ courses and students do not pay to join any club or society in the Students Union which enables them to develop a real sense of belonging at UON which is designed to ensure student progression is high.
We also have a care package starting in 2020-21 which enables 50 students who are care leavers, to access free accommodation across their 1st year at university. These support packages are crucial to the cohort of students that come to us to study: In 2019-20, 21.9% of our students originated from IMD Q1 and 22.3% from Q2. We think our investment is a crucial mechanism that enables students from these backgrounds to be successful, adopt our changemaker ethos and progress into the work of work as advocates.
From an altruistic contribution aspect, the Staff Volunteers Policy referenced in section 50 outlines our commitment to our staff and community groups, third sector and CICs to work together to make a positive impact on our community. As mentioned in section 50 a direct cost for this opportunity is impossible to calculate as the programme is intended to start this academic year and we are not able to predict the take up of the opportunity as yet.
Learning resources developed through the Schools Engagement team within faculties/departments and institutes within the university that support schoolteachers and children achieve their academic potential are developed and are free to all schools across the county
There are a range of examples in section 55 of how as an institution we enable our community to benefit from our resources and facilities.
Our Covid 19 response, mentioned earlier, outlines how we have worked with other partners to support the county response to the pandemic as well as supported our students through the pandemic. Nearly 400 students worked with academic colleagues to extend their work placements with the NHS to support the Covid19 response on the front line. The University also took the decision to Furlough all our Unitemps students (our student recruitment service) to ensure they had a secure form of income during the pandemic. UON also waived the cost of university accommodation for the third term at a cost of £2.5million. As well as other learning and teaching considerations outlined in the Covid respons the university was determined to support the student body at these unprecedented times to ensure that continuation and for some, the completion of their degree course was a clear target and outcome.
There are further references throughout this submission outlining and reflecting how we deliver social output.
The below questions are not mandatory, but Mark holders are encouraged to answer them where possible, to provide a fuller account of their social outcomes and the social value they create.
5) How do you and other people know your aims are being achieved? Or how will you know?
Within the University's Operational Plan there are strategic objectives which are monitored by and reported to the Board of Governors to ensure that objectives are achieved and evaluated.
Our work to assess our impact and then ensure that it leads to tangible outcomes/changes in University activities where appropriate, is underpinned by our commitment to the UN SDGs (as was outlined earlier).
The University’s impact measurement work is underpinned by the Social Impact Matrix, a bespoke approach to measuring impact that was developed by the University in 2014. This approach underpinned the ‘storytelling’ approach to our impact measurement that led to the production of annual social impact reports for the University between 2015-2017. However, the University is keen to build a more robust evaluation framework going forwards, which will be centred on both the Social Impact Matrix and UN SDGs as a means to capture performance in research, teaching and community engagement through metrics/data that are globally comparable and ranked (the THE Impact rankings). There is strong strategic support for this, with both the Vice-Chancellor and Board of Governors leading the development of this work.
Various other mechanisms will support and feed into the work outlined above but identifying where we have come from and where we plan to get to in the future:
- Engagement levels of target schools through the UniConnect and Widening Participation Programmes tracked on HEAT
- Tracking success against the Estates SDG REF
- Minutes reviewed and actioned at various boards – Governors, UMT, Faculty, HR forums, Staff forums
- The Changemaker Annual Awards nominations and winners
- Engagement with business forums led by the Key Sector and Knowledge Transfer Manager
- The Evaluation Framework to support the impact of the Access and Participation Plan annual report to OfS
- The UON Widening Access Steering Group
- Staff annual survey
- The REF
- The TEF
- Staff Volunteering records
- Employability awards achieved at Bronze, Silver, Gold and Post Grad – linking to Student Success tracking in the APP
- Changemaker Awards achieved at Bronze, Silver and Gold
- Time Higher Education (THE) Impact tables
Reporting the difference we have made is delivered through:
- Unify – our weekly staff newsletter
- UoN news in local and national media led by the Public Relations Team
- Annual report to Governors
- Governor minutes
- The Student Experience Committee
- Academic Quality and Standards Committee
- Faculty Executive Meetings
- The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Staff Forum
- Changemaker Annual Awards
- Stakeholder membership board/committee meetings and reports
- Bi –annual Staff Survey feedback to staff
6) How many people have benefitted from your actions and what measures of benefit can you report?
As identified within the opening section of the submission surrounding the University's core social purpose, The Social Impact Matrix (SIM), has underpinned the University’s initial storytelling approach to its impact.
The focus on reporting our impact has now deepened to become more evidence-based, utilising the SIM alongside the UN SDGs to develop an impact measurement framework that is both locally contextual, but also globally comparative/relevant. This has been evidenced in our submission to the research led by Kings College London focused on global university impact, as well as our commitment to submit to Times Higher Education Impact rankings in January 2021.
This strategic commitment to measuring our impact across the UN SDGs is also complimented by our work in evaluating our widening access work, embodied in our Access and Participation Plan evaluation strategy for 2020-2025. Our commitment to supporting students from BAME and disadvantaged backgrounds to engage with positive experiences in HE and to achieve the academic qualifications and life ambitions that they desire, is central to this and underpins much of our social impact work. Taken together, this demonstrates the University’s institutional-wide commitment to creating and measuring social impact.
7) What examples can you provide of a typical service user experience, that help illustrate the benefits they have experienced as a result of your actions?
Changemaker Challenge Fund Winner 2016 - Developing a Northamptonshire Centre for People Living with Dementia and their Carers. UnityDEM
Led by UON’s Professor Jacqueline Parkes and working closely with members of the Changemaker team in design, reach and funding, the UNityDEM57 project developed a unique and innovative community-based hub in Northamptonshire, providing post-diagnostic support for people with mild to moderate dementia and their carers launching in March 2018.
Addressing a gap in current provision, the Northamptonshire model adopted a place-based systems approach to post-diagnostic psychosocial support in a community-based context. The Project finished as intended after 2 years, on 2nd April 2020.
However, with the planned development of the dementia village project (built on The Waterside Campus) “Project Meadow” currently at business case development stage, it is anticipated that “UnityDem” will be relaunched and be delivered on site at the dementia village. This offers the community, University and students the opportunity of continuing the impact of the UnityDEM project as well as the intended possibility of providing placements, linking to teaching and engagement with local partners to establish the dementia village as an example of best practice which would reflect the university’s changemaker campus aims of providing a positive community impact locally, nationally and internationally.
Laney Holland – Winner of Changemaker Student of the year 2018
Laney, a recent BSc Midwifery graduate, is passionate about eradicating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She is well known in the county and town for her tireless campaigning on the subject and is seen as a pioneer in the county on this subject.
Combining her vocation with her passion, she is approaching the issue through maternity services from her position as a Midwife. Knowing that she wanted to focus on supporting victims and educating communities she established the charity Creating Equalz. Funded through the changemaker hubs “Give it a Go” fund.
Bridgette Gouda and the Dentistry Team – nominated for Staff Changemaker of the Year 2019
The idea developed through The Changemaker Integrated Learner Support programme when a member of the Schools Engagement Team presented to the Dentistry students. Brigette was instrumental in exploring how dental health professionals and UON students can engage with primary schools to encourage better dental health and awareness of oral hygiene.
Through developing a two-hour active learning session, she has offered schools the opportunity to introduce this topic to their children in a new and engaging way. The workshop has been targeted to schools in Northamptonshire that are most deprived, identifying those schools that educate over 50% of their cohorts from IMD Q1&2 super output areas (APP focus).
As a result, 120 primary children annually across the county benefited from the workshop in both 2018-19 & 2019-20 and now have a better understanding of dental health and the resources available to them to maintain healthy dental practices.
The impact of the workshop has been further increased with all children being encouraged to share their learning with their families, promoting a family approach to dental care. The project was successfully developed with greater UON student involvement in delivery, giving UON students the opportunity to create a positive impact in the community
8) What social and environmental benefits have you created arising from internal operational policies and other actions?
Many of our building and learning resources are made available to the community which enables us to support our colleagues make an even greater impact.
For example, our Library is free to use for the community and also school children, who can become associate members of the library and benefit from the extensive resources we have on site and also virtually. In conjunction with the Local Authority, Northampton Youth Summit 2019 was hosted at the university free of charge. A charitable LGBT+ group use several meetings rooms for their monthly meetings and associated workshops and an asylum seekers football team use our sport hall/4G artificial pitch weekly.
During the Covid19 pandemic and continuing UON is working very closely with the local NHS Trust to provide accommodation at a cost of £250,000 to key workers as well as with the Local authority and local charities to provide accommodation for rough sleepers in the town. The intention is to enable both cohorts to access our student accommodation where we have any spare capacity after November 21st 2020. The university has entered into discussions to be part of the town commitment to provide places for rough sleepers past November 21 2020 when the temperature dips below two degrees.
The Changemaker Hub Team fully fund internships which are based in community groups.