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Peter Reader
Peter Reader - Director of Marketing & Communications

Press Release - 03 November 2004

Building trust and good understanding

'The Role of the University in the Community' - a conference organised by Universities UK was held yesterday (Tuesday 2 November 2004).

At the conference, Peter Reader, Director of Marketing and Communications at University of Bath led a workshop on 'Liaising with the Local Community', in which he drew on his experience at Bath, from other UK universities and from a research visit to Boston College, USA.

He emphasised the importance of regular, planned two-way communication between the university and local residents and the need to build up trust and good understanding of issues.

He added "Disagreements are inevitable but, across the UK, too many have occurred because of misinformation and, hence, the need to establish the factual position is vital. One particular myth is that the behaviour of students is worse than that of their contemporaries who are not students, but there is no factual basis for this statement; the Police do not even keep records of whether the people with whom they deal are students or non-students."

"The value of a university should not be judged solely in economic terms"

Diana Green, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University and Chair of Universities UK's Student Experience Strategy Group, said in her opening speech that whilst the economic benefits that a university brings to a community are very important, the value of a university should not be measured in purely economic terms:

"Today's universities play a central role in economic development, including:

"Whilst the economic impact [of a university] is clearly important, there are numerous other ways in which having a university situated in the community enriches the local quality of life. Not least of these is the value of learning for learning's sake, and many universities now have extensive continuing education programmes."

"Universities have a vital contribution to make to the cultural life of cities and communities, and are often key partners in local theatre productions, concerts, art and museum exhibitions and a host of other cultural events and activities. This contribution can often be overlooked and is something which should be celebrated."

She added: "For us [at Sheffield Hallam University], as for many other institutions with large numbers of part-time and mature students, there is no artificial separation between the university and the local community - approximately one third of our students are the local community."