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Supporting arts, culture and the creative economy across our cities and regions

University Alliance is shining a spotlight on universities’ role in cultural leadership, supporting the arts and driving forward the creative economy in their cities and regions.

New guidance to support arts and cultural organisations seeking to partner with universities, produced jointly by Arts Council England and University Alliance, will be launched today at an arts showcase event taking place at London’s Southbank Centre.

The exhibition will highlight examples of existing partnerships and the ways in which universities are acting as custodians and champions of the arts, published in a collection of case studies, Making Places: Universities, the arts & creative industries.

University Alliance will also be undertaking a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to map knowledge exchange partnerships in universities with the creative economy. The project will use existing data held by funding bodies, universities and other external organisations to develop a clearer picture of the activities that are less formalised such as consultancy, ad hoc advice or informal knowledge exchange activities which are often undertaken by arts and humanities academics. The pilot takes Alliance universities as a test case for developing new methodologies to tell the ‘hidden story’ of partnership activities, and for capturing and understanding their contribution. It will publish its findings in early 2017.

The project will establish new ways of evaluating understanding partnerships between universities and the creative economy, which employs 400,000 people and is worth £12bn.

Commenting, University Alliance Chief Executive Maddalaine Ansell said:

“As cultural leaders in their cities and regions universities catalyse creativity, promote access to great art and cultural activities and support growth and job creation in the creative economy.

“We are proud to be showcasing many fantastic examples of this activity from across Alliance institutions, and we hope the joint guidance we are publishing with Arts Council England will support the growth of partnerships between higher education and arts and cultural organisations of all sizes.

“We will also be developing new ways of measuring and mapping knowledge exchange in the creative industries, gaining a better understanding of the impact which can be made by these collaborations, and look forward to working with the AHRC in taking this forward.”

Commenting, Arts Council England Chief Executive Darren Henley OBE said: 

“Higher education institutions are playing an increasingly vital role as custodians and champions of arts and culture in towns and cities across the country. They support the development of young talent, they lead on research of national and international significance, and their investment in arts and culture helps to build a sense of place.

“Many arts and cultural organisations are already working hand-in-hand with the higher education sector to drive forward their local creative economy. By producing the new guide with University Alliance, we are hoping to build and grow on the partnerships that already exist, to ensure that our sectors continue to have a meaningful two-way dialogue.”

Commenting, AHRC Interim Chief Executive Professor Andrew Thompson said:

“The AHRC recognises that Universities have long-running strategic relationships with a wide variety of local and national creative practitioners.

Some of these partnerships with the creative economy are however less formalised and often not recorded or reported or indeed supported by universities centrally. This lack of recording does not allow researchers, universities or funders to capture the rich and diverse interactions between our universities and the creative economy or to consider how these interactions might be best furthered.

“The University Alliance research project is very timely therefore — an exciting opportunity to develop new methodologies to tell the ‘hidden story’ of these partnerships and better understand their value. We hope that the findings of the pilot will enable both academics and universities to tell a more comprehensive and confident story of broad range of knowledge exchange that is flourishing in the arts and humanities across the UK and the support thereby provided to the UK’s flagship creative and cultural industries.”

Editor’s notes:

  1. A clearer picture: A guide for arts and cultural organisations engaging with universities, produced by University Alliance and Arts Council England is online here.
  2. The research team of the AHRC-funded project ‘The Hidden Story: mapping knowledge exchange partnerships for the creative economy’ is led by Professor Alex Williams from Kingston University and Co-Investigators Professor Bruce Cronin, University of Greenwich, Professor Jon Dovey, UWE Bristol and Dr Peter Garside, Kingston University. Further research and Impact and Evaluation support is provided by Sheffield Hallam University and Coventry University.
  3. A blog by Professor Martin McQuillan explaining further background on ‘The Hidden Story‘ project is online here.
  4. A collection of case studies highlighting the ways in which Alliance institutions are working in partnership with arts and cultural organisations and supporting the creative arts, Making Places: Universities, the arts & creative industries is online here.
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