A Civic University

Truly Civic - how Derby firmly set out its Civic ambitions

In June 2022, the University of Derby launched its Civic University Agreement (CUA) – a set of five goals demonstrating its civic commitment to supporting Derby and Derbyshire and their communities. Following extensive consultation, this ambitious plan was created and is now being delivered alongside 15 other organisations - signatories of the CUA - in the region.

As a Civic University we are involved in a wide range of projects and initiatives that are making a real difference to local communities and individuals – opening doors to opportunities, raising aspirations and helping to transform lives.

The five goals set out within the Civic University Agreement were developed in direct response to both the challenges and opportunities facing Derby, Derbyshire and the communities within it. They are designed to make a long-lasting positive impact on the city and county, bringing benefits to many. 

Panaromic view of Derby city

Civic projects

As part of the CUA we are committed to supporting community-based projects, and work hard to secure additional funding to enable us to deliver even greater value and impact to local communities. 

Launch of the Derby Saturday Club

The University launched the first Saturday Club for Derby in January this year, focused on Society and Change. This is part of a National Saturday Club network of clubs designed to support 13 to 16-year-olds with opportunities for creative and cultural engagement.

The National Saturday Club is free and open to young people of all abilities, offering a unique opportunity to explore subjects they love, build new skills, discover their talents, meet new people and explore future study and career possibilities.

Dr Rhiannon Jones, Associate Professor (Civic) at the University of Derby, said: “I think the Saturday Club really shows the power of working with external stakeholders, creating a partnership which draws on the expertise and resources of several groups to deliver something unique and impactful.

“Not only is this a civic project, but we’re also encouraging the next generation to think about citizenship – what impact can they have locally? We’re physically bringing them into the University space and raising aspirations, as well as introducing them to other civic organisations in and around Derby.”

Saturday Club exhibition at Derby County

Work created by dozens of Derby Saturday Club members – including poems, protest banners and hip-hop raps - took centre stage for match day at Pride Park Stadium’s Community Corner on Saturday 22 April.

In partnership with Derby County Community Trust, S.H.E.D – Social Higher Education Depot – was set up at the football club’s Community Corner as an exhibition space, welcoming over 29,300 fans. Baby People, a Derby-based music and arts development organisation, supported the event by working with the young people to produce raps.

Attending the event was Derby Saturday Club member Jasmine. She said: “Today we have done some rapping in a studio – it was nerve-wracking but fun. I wrote a poem and rapped it out – it sounded really good, edited with music. The Saturday Club is opening doors to things I’ve never done before.”

Fellow club member Alfred added: “It’s great having everyone who supports Derby and Burton see my work."

A group of people sitting/standing in front of a shed
Members of the Saturday Club and S.H.E.D at the Derby County match
iconOne year since the launch of our Civic University Agreement
iconNew strategic partnership with Derby Book Festival
iconAwarded Bronze Engage Watermark by NCCPE
icon£1,600 for Darley first responders' equipment
iconLocal school children exhibited art for 30,000 Derby County fans
iconUniversity was part of Derby's successful application to become a UNESCO Learning City

Strategic partnership with Derby Book Festival

We signed a strategic partnership with Derby Book Festival to further strengthen our commitment to arts and culture in Derby.

The University was instrumental in helping to establish the first Derby Book Festival in 2015, and has since provided annual funding and in-kind sponsorship. This new strategic partnership formalises this commitment and will see us working to develop innovative and impactful projects, events and activities that provide learning experiences to students outside of curriculum opportunities. 

Speaking at the time of signing the new agreement, Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathryn Mitchell, said: “As one of the Festival’s founding partners, we have been delighted by its success and are excited for this new chapter which will further strengthen the partnership between our two organisations. As a Civic university, we take the culture of our city seriously and are committed to playing our part, so we are delighted to expand on this relationship.”

SHED at Timber and MADfest

In July, over 300 Year 8 pupils from Littleover Community School worked with our academics to create artwork and designs that were exhibited with S.H.E.D at Timber Festival in the National Forest.

The workshops were delivered as part of an annual event called MADfest, held by the school's Creative Arts Faculty, that encourages young people to explore social justice issues such as climate change, through the mediums of Music, Art and Drama (MAD) to address the relationship between creative careers, community, and society.

Recycling bins, donated by Derby City Council, were upcycled by the students with fun and creative designs to encourage members of the public to recycle. Students also took part in a session on astrophotography, creating photographic images of the night sky using Photoshop, whilst discussing the effects of light pollution.

Works created by the pupils at MADfest were then curated and showcased via S.H.E.D at Timber Festival, which had an audience of over 5,000 in attendance. The installation was a thought-provoking exhibit featuring artwork including podcasts, research data, design ideation and QR codes to take audiences to a range of videos about MADfest and S.H.E.D.

a group of students sitting colouring on the floor of an open shed
S.H.E.D at Timber Festival

Littleover mural

In October 2022, a new mural artwork was unveiled at Littleover Community School. The School Mural, situated in the school’s reception, was created after the school commissioned S.H.E.D to help turn the building into a welcoming space that reflected the values of the school.

To create the mural, S.H.E.D ran workshops with students at the school to explore how a mural design could capture the school's ethos of Learning, Caring and Succeeding.

The resulting artwork has three main components: portraits representing various topics or aspects of the school experience; a large ribbon representing a unified community; and a refracting prism which gives structure and a framework for other elements.

Students and staff of Littleover School and University of Derby staff
The team behind the mural at Littleover Community School celebrate its completion

UNESCO Learning City

In September 2022, Derby became one of just two cities in the UK to be accepted as members of UNESCO's Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC). Membership was granted following a successful application submitted by Derby City Council, the University, Derby County Community Trust and the Derby Opportunity Area Board.

Key criteria for becoming a learning city include a strong commitment to lifelong learning from the mayor, and a track record of good practices and policy initiatives. 

Professor Kathryn Mitchell said: “We are delighted to have been a part of the application process and look forward to working with partners as we build on the work of Derby’s Opportunity Area Board, with a view to delivering on our shared vision for inclusive lifelong learning that truly puts Derby on the world map as an exemplar of best practice.” 

Bronze NCCPE watermark

In December 2022, the University was awarded the Bronze Engage Watermark by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), in recognition of its outstanding commitment to supporting public engagement.

Commenting at the time, Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathryn Mitchell, said: “We are delighted to receive this Bronze Engage Watermark in recognition of the University’s ongoing commitment to high quality public engagement.

“At the heart of university life is the imperative to create new knowledge and understanding and develop valuable and effective partnership working. Our approach to this engenders formal engagement, not just with the University community but directly with the many communities that are within our region and beyond.”

Community sponsorship

Each year the University provides financial and in-kind support to a variety of individuals and organisations and this year has been no different. We are pleased to be able to support valuable projects in this way and are delighted at the impact they make. 

£1,600 for Darley first responders’ equipment

In February, the University donated £1,600 to a team of local volunteers who support the East Midlands Ambulance Service, covering the costs of equipping a first responder with the necessary kit to reduce overall time taken to provide medical treatment.

Established in November 2021, Darley First Responders (Darley CFR) is a team of trained volunteers, deployed directly by the Ambulance Service to provide emergency care in Darley Abbey and the wider Derby area.

Professor Keith McLay, Provost – Learning and Teaching at the University of Derby, said: “One of the goals of our Civic University Agreement is to support the health and wellbeing of communities within the city and county, so when we received the request to provide funding for this life saving equipment, it was an easy decision to make.

“Community first responders play a vital role within the community, giving up their time to support people facing life-threatening situations. We are delighted to support Darley CFR, even more so because Joshua, one of our students, is going to be the volunteer receiving the kit.”