Our civic role for London
The University of London goes above and beyond the provision of higher education to create lasting and meaningful impact on the city it calls home.
The University of London was established by Royal Charter in 1836 for the public benefit and is recognised globally. Throughout our long history, the University has offered access to a wide range of academic opportunities. As a world leader in higher education, the University has pioneered change in the sector.
For almost 200 years, we have improved the lives of millions of people around the world through our unique approach to education.
Supporting London in new ways
The University of London is very proud of its role as an anchor institution within the capital, supporting and working with the local community and partners for the benefit of all those who live, work and study in London.
Through a range of projects and initiatives the University seeks to deepen its contributions to the city and cement its position as a civic institution ‘for the public benefit’.
Projects and initiatives
One way in which UoL is building new connections in the city of London and nurturing old ones is through the London Research and Policy Partnership (LRaPP), which it leads alongside the Greater London Authority and London Councils.
LRaPP aims to create networks between local government and the academic research community to address major public policy issues. Its board is chaired by our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wendy Thomson, while Professor of Practice Ben Rogers represents the University as part of LRaPP’s executive group.
Since it was established, the project has focused on two main areas;
- green businesses, jobs and skills – all of which contribute to a net zero agenda.
- examining policies that would improve housing, by working with local communities to reduce the carbon footprint of London's homes.
Local Policy Innovation Partnership bid
In January, the LRaPP submitted a bid for a Local Policy Innovation Partnership (LPIP), a cross-sector programme that aims to support policymakers in tackling levelling-up challenges, driving growth and reducing the disparity between regions in the UK.
A successful bid would enable LRaPP to access significant funding as well as joining the LPIP Hub, a national consortium of research and policy stakeholders led by the University of Birmingham. The
LRaPP was shortlisted for the bid in June and is currently preparing to submit a stage 2 proposal by mid-September. The LPIP bid focused on supporting London reaching net zero by 2030, particularly through the retrofitting of homes.
Looking forward, the partnership is focusing on the stage 2 proposal and is organising a series of workshops with researchers, policymakers, entrepreneurs, activists and local communities to expand its networks and discuss retrofit challenges.
The University of London is also a part of the London Anchor Institutions' Network (LAIN), which launched in March 2021. The network tackles long standing inequalities within London by bringing together the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, London Councils and leading organisations across business, the public sector and community groups. Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wendy Thomson, is co-chair of the network’s steering committee.
A number of working groups have been formed to focus on a number of critical issues in the city such as the gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps, mentorship for young people and using procurement to support local economies.
Alongside the University, other LAIN network members include the Association of Colleges, The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Muslim Council of Britain, and the Metropolitan Police Service.
A significant way the University is addressing LAIN’s objectives is by purchasing goods and services from micro, small and medium-sized businesses in London.
As part of its normal operations, the University has contributed millions of pounds to London-based suppliers. This was especially important during the pandemic, where the University directed £48m towards suppliers in the city between 2020 and 2022.
LAIN as a whole has committed to spend more than £1.3bn on contracts with small businesses in London by 2027.
The London Scholars Programme is an excellent example of the University’s dedication to creating a real social and economic impact in the city as well as widening access to higher education.
In autumn last year the university launched the £2m scholarship to address the attainment gap between students.
More than 70 students are already benefiting from the scheme and, over the next three years, up to 100 London-based students from across the federation will receive support through the programme.
LAIN has also supported activity at the University through its London Progression Collaborative, which is providing guidance on how to make better use of the apprenticeship levy. The levy, which the University already pays as a large employer, supports the funding of apprenticeship training for other employers.
The University has announced the ongoing development of an apprenticeship programme for London-based roles. So far, fifteen apprenticeship positions have been approved across the HR and ITDS departments.
Leveraging the Levy: supporting apprenticeships across the University of London
As an anchor institution we are committed to supporting London’s communities by creating meaningful apprenticeship opportunities.
To support this commitment the University commissioned Workwhile, formerly the London Progression Collaboration, to explore how the university and its 17 federation members can do more to support apprenticeships and make the most of the considerable apprenticeship levy contribution each institution makes.
Key findings of the report
The report estimates that over £10 million is contributed annually in apprenticeship levies across the University of London federation, but at least 75% of this funding expires unused each year.
As the report states, this is a significant missed opportunity. Apprenticeships offer benefits to both institutions and individuals, by creating learn as you work opportunities and helping universities recruit to recruit to hard-to-fill posts, boost retention and develop a more inclusive and representative workforce. To maximise these opportunities and support universities’ wider strategic objectives, the report makes six key recommendations:
- Ensure strong senior sponsorship of apprenticeships, both at a federation level and within institutions
- Build-up HR staff capacity and expertise to expand and support high-quality apprenticeships
- Maximise opportunities for structured collaborative working and best-practice sharing across the University of London
- Undertake cross-organisational communications activity to build the reputation of and appetite for apprenticeships across federal members
- Work across federation members to promote, recruit and support apprenticeships
- Maximise the transfer of unspent levy funds to small and medium sized businesses, enabling them to take on apprentices.
It is hoped that the report can provide valuable insights and recommendations to other institutions looking to expand their apprenticeship schemes. We are grateful to all contributors and look forward to helping drive progress across London.
In addition to our scholarship programme, students also benefit through our Careers Service, which provides a wealth of careers and employability support to students as well as recent graduates and research staff.
The service recently launched a new short course on the online learning platform Moodle, which aims to help students under the age of 18 explore their post-school options.
Online courses like 'What’s Next?' have become an important resource for young people in London and elsewhere. It also supports our Social Mobility Pledge, which is “to collaborate with schools or colleges to provide coaching through quality careers advice, enrichment experience, and/or mentoring to people from disadvantaged backgrounds or circumstances”.
The University is continually updating its estates and property for the benefit of its students, staff and the wider Bloomsbury area.
Last year the lower ground floor of Senate House underwent a significant transformation to enable the creation of BLOOM@Senate House, a multi-use space for students from across the University of London federation, as well as visitors to Senate House and Senate House Library.
The space provides substantially more study and social areas with the convenience of being right next to Deller Hall Café.
Anybody who has recently entered Senate House from Malet Street is sure to have seen the Senate House Steps, which reimagine the former carpark as a colourful and inviting space for students, staff, and the local community.
The University has also taken part in the Queen's Green Canopy project, which celebrates the Platinum Jubilee of the late Queen Elizabeth II by encouraging tree-planting. Members of staff planted 18 dwarf plum trees across the estate, one for each Federation Member.
You can see these trees throughout the Bloomsbury area in Woburn Square, Gordon Square and Torrington Square. This is in addition to new flower beds that have been planted across the estate.
The University has been involved in several initiatives to improve our environmental impact, particularly in our green public spaces, such as a hedgehog house in Gordon Square and a bug hotel in Woburn Square. This work helped the University secure an award from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.
The School of Advanced Study hosts a number of publicly accessible Summer Schools programmes based in London. The courses include the IHR London Summer School, which offers participants insight into London’s stories and historic places.
The theme for this year’s Summer School was ‘Secret London’ and explored topics such as the secret histories of Medieval London and MI5, as well as Senate House’s history as the former home to the World War II-era Ministry of Information.
Next year’s theme will be ‘Rivers’, a particularly relevant topic to current public discourse on the UK’s waterways.
The summer schools are open to the public and some allow those students to earn credits towards a full degree.