After two years of events and research activities, we are finally able to share with everyone some reflection and findings from the final report ‘Beyond the Creative Campus’ just published. Dr Roberta Comunian (King’s College London) and Dr Abigail Gilmore (University of Manchester) worked for two years on the research network (started in 2013) funded by the AHRC entitled ‘Beyond the Campus: Connecting Knowledge and Creative Practice Communities across Higher Education and the Creative Economy’.
It aimed to chart the under explored territory of the relation between universities and the creative economy, bringing together views and experiences from academics, creative and cultural practitioners and policy makers. It included four UK based seminars as well as international visits (in USA, Australia and Singapore) and a final international conference that took place at King’s College London last June.
The report entitled Beyond the creative campus: reflections on the evolving relationship between higher education and the creative economy is not written as an academic or policy document rather it aims to act ‘as a ‘critical friend’ for policy organisations, academics, creative practitioners and cultural organisations to help them navigate the issues and challenges of working beyond the campus as well making the most of the opportunities that this offers.
The first part includes a helpful guide for academics and practitioners in the arts to familiarize themselves with terminology and dynamics specific to the arts sector (see fig.1).
The key findings are articulated under four critical headlines. The first concerns the relationship between universities, cultural regeneration and communities. Here, the reports highlight the role that universities play in local community engagement and cultural provision in cities. The second considers the key role played by ‘creative human capital’, such as graduates and staff who are often responsible for creating networks beyond the campus. In particular, the report highlights the need for a new type of ‘creative and engaged academics’ able to work at the boundaries between academia and creative and cultural production. The third present the idea of ‘third spaces’, hybrid physical and virtual platforms that allows the two sides to meet and interact. It maps some models of ‘third spaces’ devised by policy and institutions – such as collaborative vouchers scheme or creative residencies – but warns about the possibility of ‘engineering’ these spaces as they work at their best when developed organically. Lastly, specifically looking into the relationship between universities and the arts, the authors consider the different dynamics of interaction (patrons, sponsor or partners) that can be established. These different approaches imply different objective and potential impact and need to be evaluated accordingly.
The concluding remarks warn of important issues that need to be considered in pushing this agenda forward and making sure it remains viable and sustainable for all involved. In particular, it highlights: firstly, the issue of (often) unbalanced power relations between larger higher education institutions and smaller creative and cultural producers; secondly, the importance of capturing the economic and social-cultural value of creative human capital, against is (often undervalued) labour market. Finally, it underlines the importance of engagement with the localities and the role of arts and culture in bridging the gap between higher education and marginalized communities. The report has received the praises of academic and cultural leaders. Deborah Bull, Director of Culture, at King’s College London highlights how the document:
“strikes a welcome balance between critical reflection and practical guide, and will encourage a deeper understanding of why – and how – the cultural and higher education sectors interact and of the different types of value these collaborations can deliver”.
Like with previous work undertaken for the project (the authors worked with animation artist Alys Scott Hawkins to create the short film ‘Love Story’ for the AHRC Creative Economy Showcase in 2014), the report is also a collaboration with an independent designer Adria Davidson who has made the content of the report also a creative output that bridges across higher education and the creative economy.
For more information about the project visit www.creative-campus.org.uk.
Click here to read the pdf version of the report.