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Recognising social enterprise excellence in Higher Education

Three UK Higher Education Institutions have become the latest organisations to be awarded the prestigious Social Enterprise Gold Mark, in recognition of their social enterprise excellence.

Plymouth College of Art, The University of Northampton and the University of Winchester join a growing network of gold standard social enterprises, which have proven their commitment to creating lasting positive impact on people and planet, through their trading operations.

Following a rigorous assessment process, the Social Enterprise Gold Mark awards were presented at our annual conference in Winchester on Monday 5th June. The awards were presented by James Evans, who is a member of the independent Certification Panel, which upholds the rigour of the assessment process and oversees the process of applications and assessments. The panel has the final decision on all applications for the Social Enterprise Gold Mark.

The Social Enterprise Gold Mark offers enhanced accreditation to social enterprises wishing to demonstrate their excellence, assessing three essential areas of business operations:

  • Governance – stakeholder representation in strategy and operation
  • Business ethics – complaints handling, diversity, equality, pay, workplace issues and social auditing
  • Social impact and financial transparency – how income and profits are used to create added social and environmental impact

The accreditation focuses on measuring what makes a social enterprise excellent, and how they can continue to improve their impact. Successful applicants receive an individually tailored action plan for continuous improvement, in line with guidelines of best practice.

Hannah Harris, Director of Development, and Professor Andrew Brewerton, Principal and Chief Executive of Plymouth College of Art, with the Social Enterprise Gold Mark award

Hannah Harris, Director of Development, and Professor Andrew Brewerton, Principal and Chief Executive of Plymouth College of Art, with the Social Enterprise Gold Mark award (Photo credit: Dom Moore)

Professor Andrew Brewerton, Plymouth College of Art’s Principal and Chief Executive said: “Creative learning is transformational: in terms of individual lives, the life of our community and its prosperity within the UK’s world-leading creative economy. The work of our staff and students at Plymouth College of Art and at The Red House, home to Plymouth School of Creative Arts, is deeply embedded in our community, and we feel honoured and delighted that this commitment over many years has been recognised with the Social Enterprise Gold Mark. This is in truth an acknowledgement of our community as a whole, and everybody across our networks of social engagement in Plymouth as a Social Enterprise City.”

Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of The University of Northampton receiving the Social Enterprise Gold Mark from James Evans

Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of The University of Northampton receiving the Social Enterprise Gold Mark from James Evans

Wray Irwin, Head of University Centre for Employability and Engagement at The University of Northampton, said: “Northampton leads the charge when it comes to learning that makes an impact on society. Our whole way of working reflects this; making a difference is in our DNA. Receiving professional recognition for this is great news, but the Social Enterprise Gold Mark in particular is testament to the dedication at Northampton, from students and staff alike to ‘do good things’ in the world beyond university. It goes without saying that the award really belongs to all of them. We all look forward to continuing on this path in the months and years ahead.”

Professor Joy Carter of University of Winchester receiving Social Enterprise Gold Mark from Lucy Findlay

Professor Joy Carter of University of Winchester receiving Social Enterprise Gold Mark from Lucy Findlay

Professor Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor at The University of Winchester, said: “As a values-driven university, all we do is closely aligned to the Social Enterprise Gold Mark priorities. From divesting our fossil fuel linked investments, our pioneering work with care leavers and others who are underrepresented in higher education, through to our world-leading research in peace and reconciliation, we are a university driven by a passion to make a difference. Big ideas, growing flourishing people and communities, being the difference for a better world. So we are delighted to have the Social Enterprise Gold Mark to help us both communicate our unique focus and priorities, as well as to be continuously challenged.”

Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC, added: “We are delighted to welcome these organisations to our expanding network of ‘gold standard’ social enterprises. We have seen an increasing interest from the Higher Education sector over the last 12 months, which is an encouraging development, as it symbolises a commitment to creating social change, for which such institutions have a huge potential scope to achieve.”

Please click here for more information about the Social Enterprise Gold Mark.

Student Satisfaction at Social Enterprise Universities

Two universities that have been awarded the Social Enterprise Mark have scored highly in the 2016 National Student Survey (NSS).

MARJON-LOGO-CMYKUniversity of St Mark and St John in Plymouth (Marjon) has shot up the league tables, showing the highest percentage point increase of any university this year, rising up the rankings to be rated joint 35th out of 160 universities in the country, with 89% overall student satisfaction.

Several Marjon courses were ranked joint top in the country with 100% satisfaction, including the innovative new Acting degree, which sees its first students graduating this year, to the long established and well respected Secondary Education with PE. Other courses with 100% satisfaction were Sport Development with Physical Education and Sports Media and Journalism, showing a breadth of talent across all three Marjon faculties.

The University as a whole scored well across a breadth of measures such as Teaching (90% satisfaction), Personal Development (89% satisfaction) and Learning Resources (88% satisfaction). This positioned it above eight of the 10 other universities in the South West including Plymouth, Bristol, UWE, Bath Spa and Falmouth. Out of the 24 Russell Group universities in the UK, only six came in higher than Marjon for student satisfaction. When compared to other “modern” universities, excluding specialist and private providers, Marjon now ranks joint 6th in the country.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Cara Aitchison said “Our personalised approach to education ensures that all of our students thrive within a welcoming and supportive university environment that stimulates them to achieve academic success while also developing the skills, confidence and experience to succeed in graduate-level employment and life more generally.”

“We often hear positive feedback from students about the high level of support they receive and the excellent facilities we have here on campus, but we are all delighted to see this reflected in this important independent survey.”


 

Coventry UniCoventry University was  ranked 11th in the UK with 91% overall student satisfaction, and is the UK’s best at boosting students’ confidence. Coventry also secured joint top spot nationally in the personal development category, in which students were asked to assess how their confidence, communication skills and ability to tackle problems had improved during their studies.

Coventry was also ranked first amongst modern universities for both personal development and for the organisation and management of its courses. Out of all the non-specialist universities in the Midlands, Coventry secured top spot for personal development and finished joint first for teaching, and organisation and management.

The positive feedback that students have reported around their own personal development is especially satisfying for the University as it strives to increase accessibility to higher education and enhance the learning experience for those who come to study at Coventry.

Vice-Chancellor John Latham said At Coventry University we’re really focused on enhanced learning. What that means in practice is that alongside gaining knowledge in a specific field and acquiring a worthwhile qualification we want our students to grow in confidence during their time here so they feel well equipped for the workplace and beyond when they leave us.”

“We’re very pleased to have once again scored highly in the personal development category in this year’s student survey. It’s particularly satisfying given our student demographic and especially rewarding to watch them become more self-assured while they study here.”


The results of the 2016 NSS were published this week, showing a high level of satisfaction among students studying at UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), Further Education colleges and alternative providers, with 86% saying they are satisfied overall with their course. The NSS covers nearly all final-year undergraduates studying for Higher Education qualifications. The survey is funded by the four UK higher education funding bodies.

How the Social Enterprise Mark can benefit Higher Education Institutions

By Cara Aitchison, Vice Chancellor of University of St Mark & St John

Our students and graduates are increasingly reporting that they seek employment and lifestyles that enable them to contribute to the social, cultural and environmental well-being of their communities, society and the world around them, rather than simply thinking of their degree as a route to a highly paid career. This presents an opportunity for university leaders who chose to put ethics, civic engagement, social and environmental justice and sustainable economic development at the heart of their strategic plans and student experience.

By being accredited with the Social Enterprise Mark, universities can better demonstrate their sustainable and ethical business credentials to the next generation of applicants. We can show our students how we apply in practice the values and knowledge that we teach and how they too can be part of a social enterprise culture.

We are all under increasing pressure to expand and diversify our income streams, and to demonstrate our positive benefit to the students, communities and stakeholders we serve. The social enterprise business model provides opportunities for HEIs to transform the way we are perceived by stakeholders and can enable us to position ourselves as ‘businesses’ driven by social objectives.

MARJON-LOGO-CMYKThe University of St Mark & St John was awarded the Social Enterprise Mark in 2015, signalling our commitment to social enterprise and demonstrating the social value that we create as a university.

As the number one university in the UK for social mobility, we are proud to be recognised for our commitment to helping local communities and the broader south west peninsula to thrive and prosper. The Social Enterprise Mark helps us to communicate this commitment to students, potential applicants, partners and the wider business community and sets us apart as a values-based, socially conscious university.

As we enter a new era in Higher Education, where the Teaching Excellence Framework and other policy developments emphasise graduate earnings, we need ways to demonstrate our parallel commitment to social enterprise principles, and the Social Enterprise Mark offers one such mechanism.

There is currently a potential discount for GuildHE members that commit to apply for the Social Enterprise Mark before the end of August 2016, and I would recommend doing so. My colleague, Professor Brendon Noble, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and International who took forward our application for the Social Enterprise Mark, can also talk to you about our experience and the benefits.

You can get in touch with Social Enterprise Mark CIC with any questions, or to express your interest in applying – 0345 504 6536 or via email.


 

Originally posted on the GuildHE blog on 22nd April 2016

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