Pioneering project boosts UEA’s community appeal in Norwich

Staff and students at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have used their expertise to help develop more than 40 projects in the community as part of a pioneering pilot project. PETER WALSH reports on the success of CUE East.

The CUE East scheme (Community University Engagement) was set up three years ago and sees academics working with local charities and organisations to impact the lives of thousands of people in the city and beyond.

The pilot scheme, which is now in its fourth year, has so far helped 41 projects in Norwich and Norfolk come to fruition.

Successes so far include organising Norwich's first Sustainable Living Festival in the Forum, working with the Big Urban Heat Experiment, to chart how Norwich influences its own climate, and setting up a new Sustainability Challenge Badge for Girlguiding Norfolk, which has since been rolled out nationally.

The community engagement project, which has received a total of �1.2m from the Beacon Funders (Higher Education Councils, Research Councils UK and The Wellcome Trust) over the four-year programme, is funding 14 projects.

The 14 schemes chosen to receive �51,000 worth of funding this year were selected because they will increase the university's engagement with local communities, utilise Norwich Research Park expertise and promote sustainable living.

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Among the funded schemes is Encounters with Butterflies, which will see volunteer butterfly-spotters investigating whether populations of the colourful insects are being affected by climate change.

Project leader Dr Aldina Franco, from the university's school of Environmental Sciences, said: 'We are absolutely delighted to receive funding for this project, which will stimulate scientists, the general public and Butterfly Conservation volunteers to develop long-term relationships and encourage young people's interest in natural history.'

Meanwhile the Mile Cross Children's Water Pollution Solution Project is also supported and will see youngsters learning about water pollution with university staff and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust through a series of creative workshops, a pond-dipping field trip and visit to Yarmouth Sea Life Centre.

CUE East steering group chair, Prof Keith Roberts, said: 'Once again, we've taken a broad approach to defining sustainable living which is reflected in the range of exciting projects that we're funding this year.

'The funds panel were particularly impressed with the quality of the partnership and collaboration between the university and community groups.

'Also, as the CUE East programme has developed, we've increased our facilitation and support for engagement in university teaching as well as research, and to that end we're especially pleased to support projects such as History, Heritage and Public Engagement which embeds engagement into a new third year undergraduate module.'

Julie Worrall, CUE East project director, said the scheme had proved a huge success and would leave a legacy at the university even after the project had finished.

She said: 'This is the fourth year of a four year pilot and its really now that we've got a wonderful story to tell of university and community engagement at the UEA and beyond.

'Our original task, given to us by the Beacon Funders, was to create a culture in higher education where public engagement is 'formalised and embedded as a valued and recognised activity' for staff and students,

'We've funded over 40 projects over the three years, all local projects, working with a huge range of community groups which has given staff and students at the university and across Norwich Research Park an opportunity to get involved with engagement to develop their ideas to try something new.'

Are you doing something to help the community? Contact Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email

The winners of the university's CUE East Individual Awards were announced at a special CUE East Celebration 'Partners and Projects' reception at City Hall on Thursday evening hosted by Vice-Chancellor Prof Edward Acton.

The event, which was timed to coincide with national Universities Week which runs from June 13-19, saw members of academic and administrative staff, students and Norwich Research Park colleagues for their commitment to community engagement.

Achievement Awards

David Baker, research assistant at the Geonome Analysis Centre, on the Norwich Research Park, plays a key role in welcoming and informing a wide range of audiences, from school children to the general public about the work of the centre.

Professor Peter Brimblecombe, associate dean of the Faculty of Science, has made an outstanding contribution to public engagement in and most recently has become the ambassador of science cafes at the university, training and inspiring young researchers in the art of being in conversation with the public about science.

Sheila Cheng, from the School of International Development, made a remarkable and invaluable contribution to a range of projects with UEA volunteers as an undergraduate, including the 2010 Big Beach Clean and the launch of the Campus Conservation Project.

Dr Steve Dorling of the School of Environmental Sciences and a senior lecturer and founding director of Weatherquest, has a remarkable track record in public engagement which spans nearly 20 years. His work includes the UEA's annual Science Olympiad and populist publications about the weather such as The Wrong Kind of Snow.

Dr Mayumi Hayashi, from the School of History, researches long-term care for older people and has involved 50 community groups, including voluntary carers' forums. She has interviewed 150 older people about their experience of long-term care and has given talks to social workers, care groups and schools.

Dr Wendy McMahon, from the School of American Studies, has designed and developed workshops in local schools on the place of US popular culture in the lives of students.

Project Awards

Dr BJ Epstein, a lecturer in Literature and Translation, was nominated for the award by the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. She works with the British Centre for Literary Translation and set up a book dedicated to translated fiction.

Dr Sarah Monks, a lecturer in European Art History, conceived and organised World Art in the City, a series of public lectures delivered by UEA academics and researchers at the Forum in Norwich.

Martin Scott, a lecturer in Media and International Development, has designed and delivered a voluntary community-based project for his Masters students working with Norwich community radio station Future and New Media Networks, a creative industries company.