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European Green Capital 2015: How student projects are engaging the city

We had great success with the Cabot Institute pilot of the Dissertation Partnership Scheme that saw seven students working with local community partners in Bristol to answer a real world problem as part of their dissertation on the Environmental Policy and Management MSc course at the University of Bristol.

Two projects that stuck out were a study on how to improve biodiversity in Bedminster
and an investigation of Green Deal delivery by local authorities.  Both these projects produced some great findings which should be of value to the organisations that they worked with, as well as forming part of their academic work.

Feedback from all partner organisations who answered a follow up survey were very positive finding it a ”rewarding experience”.  Outcomes for partners working with students included being able to ”feed experience into the academic world” and obtaining a “different perspective” on their work; they also felt that the ”enthusiasm of the student energised different partners they interacted with”.

This academic year the Cabot Institute and the Centre for Public Engagement who have run previous pilots in Engineering and Social Policy have teamed up to expand engaged learning as part of the University of Bristol’s commitment to European Green Capital. The Environmental Policy and Management MSc has just allocated 15 students to partners including local, governmental, international and consulting organisations.  The scheme has also been rolled out to the Climate Change Science and Policy MSc also in the Geographical Sciences department and to the Nutrition, Physical Activity and Public Health MSc based in the School for Policy Studies.

A slightly different scheme is underway in the International Development MSc in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies.  Students on this course can undertake a unit where they create a business plan for an NGO or small business.  In the past, organisations have been taken from a database of past examples or have been fictional.  We sent a call out for real organisations that have a need for a business plan but not the capacity to create one and 20 organisations requested student support - way more than the course had the ability to undertake.  11 groups involving 43 students are about to meet with their organisations.  At the end of the unit students present their business plan and this will be recorded and sent to the partner organisations.

The hours students put into these partnerships will contribute to the University of Bristol pledge to provide 100,000 hours of student engagement with the city in partnership with the University of the West of England as part a HEFCE grant to encourage student involvement in Bristol during its year as European Green Capital.  We are also looking for volunteering opportunities for our talented students.

If you are an organisation with a research question you would like answered or a volunteering need, or an academic interested in engaged learning, please do get in touch.  It’s an exciting time to be in Bristol!

This blog is by Hannah Tweddell, Sustainability and Engaged Learning Coordinator at the Cabot Institute, University of Bristol.  More about Community Based Learning at the Cabot Institute.



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