St Mary’s is a Catholic University, founded in 1850 to train teachers to educate poor children. St Mary’s gained University Status in 2014 but remains committed to its founding mission, providing high-quality teaching to students from all backgrounds.
The majority of students study education, sport and allied health, with increasing numbers in business and law. St Mary’s has a particularly large proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a significant number who are the first in their family to go to university. Our strengths include excellent NSS satisfaction scores and our high employability rate. In 2020 we were third in London for student satisfaction and had the second highest proportion of students in work of any university in England.
St Mary’s began as a teacher training college and Education is still the largest programme. We use our expertise to contribute both to debates about the development of education, including education in faith schools, and through practical skills and curriculum development within schools. We provide CPD and INSET training, in subjects such as the teaching of science in primary schools, RE and PE. We work with schools across London, the South East and North East of England, and an area of deprivation in North Wales. We have a research cluster on resilience and wellbeing in education, which works across academic disciplines and with partners such as South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, to improve wellbeing of both staff and pupils in schools.
St Mary’s Catholic identity forms a crucial focus of the institutional approach to knowledge exchange, with significant effort going into knowledge exchange that benefits those from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, the First Star Academy, through which St Mary’s supports young people living in care, helping them achieve academically at school and progress to higher and further education.
In line with our Catholic mission, many of our research centres focus on key societal issues, such as the Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery, the Centre for Research on the Education of Marginalised Children and Young Adults, and the Centre for the Art of Dying Well. These centres are heavily involved in knowledge exchange, developing expertise, community engagement and policy work alongside practical programmes such as the First Star Academy, summer school and education programmes for survivors of slavery, and the Art of Dying Well website.
Alongside our mission, our campus, location and facilities play a significant role in shaping our KE, as we use onsite halls of residence to host academic and community conferences outside term time, such as the Prison Chaplains Conference and the Women in Sport and Exercise (WISE) Conference. We also benefit from extensive and high-tech sports facilities, built as part of the 2012 Olympic legacy, which enable us to engage with a wide range of community sports clubs and professional sporting organisations, who use our Performance Education Centre and Lab to improve their performance. We have extensive links with local sports clubs and our academics share their knowledge and expertise widely, including promoting inclusive sport, working with organisations such as the FA.
We also run The Exchange arts venue in the heart of Twickenham, providing studio space, classes, and a programme of lectures, films, music and comedy.
St Mary’s has a Centre for Short Courses and CPD that has expanded the range and reach of its programmes in recent years. This Centre serves a very different student base from our main programmes and our courses enable adults to retrain, in particular in health and wellbeing subjects, which is particularly important at times of economic pressure, and supports job creation in the local economy. We envisage this Centre playing a key role in St Mary’s contribution in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Local Growth and Regeneration
Summary of approach
St Mary’s University is part of its local community in West London and has established strong relationships with many local employers and community organisations. As an active member of the South London Knowledge Exchange Partnership, host of the local Business Improvement District and close partner of the Local Authority, we work across South and West London with councils, other universities and business organisations to provide skills development and support the growth of local businesses.
Our main focus for growth is:
Skills development to support economic development and employment in the region;
Educational improvements, particularly for those from deprived backgrounds; and
Support for small businesses through targeted consultancy and support from our Institute of Business, Law and Society.
Aspect 1: Strategy
Areas in which we work
St Mary’s is in Richmond-upon-Thames in West London, with the majority of our students from London and South East England, often from disadvantaged communities. We have close relationships with schools and businesses in the region: Education students undertake school placements and students in many other subjects undertake work placements as part of their degree. We gather intelligence from partner organisations to identify local skills and growth needs.
The University’s The Exchange arts venue reaches beyond Twickenham and Richmond into more deprived communities nearby in areas such as Hounslow and Ealing. The Exchange has a strategy of contributing to local communities through the arts and wellbeing activities, providing access that may otherwise not be available, and reaching communities who do not usually interact with a university.
Outside our immediate locale, we have a footprint in the North East of England, where we work with a Catholic Multi-Academy Trust, and in North Wales with Glyndwr University in Wrexham and Glyn Learning Federation. We contribute to teacher training, educational CPD and upskilling of school leaders, which is key to improving educational outcomes and employability locally.
Identification of need
St Mary’s works closely with the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames and this relationship has informed our strategy. The Exchange arts venue, owned by the Council and run by the University, hosts Try Twickenham, the local Business Improvement District (BID), and our relationships with the Council and the BID inform our understanding of the needs of local businesses. The Exchange regularly hosts Council training and workshops supporting local employment and business growth. The South London Partnership (SLP), a collaboration of five local authorities, has a well-researched and comprehensive Skills Strategy to which St Mary’s is contributing.
We are active members of the South London Knowledge Exchange Partnership (SLKEP), which brings together SLP members Richmond-upon-Thames, Kingston-upon-Thames, Merton, Croydon and Sutton Councils, with local universities, FE providers and employers.
The SLKEP successfully bid to London’s Strategic Investment Pot to improve provision for small businesses and start-ups across the region. Work is currently underway to understand better local business needs and growth opportunities, and identify effective interventions, and this work is informing our strategy.
The creative industries are very important in Richmond, accounting for 16% of local jobs. St Mary’s contributes to the sector’s success and growth through our degree programmes in Acting and Technical Theatre, and through knowledge exchange. Prior to the building of The Exchange, the local council commissioned extensive research with community groups and businesses to identify their needs, which has been invaluable in developing the venue’s strategy and brand, designing an appropriate offer at the venue and within our Drama and Humanities department.
Richmond has 4,300 jobs in 1,400 tech enterprises, one of London’s highest concentrations, and 2018 research identified that 68% of local businesses plan to use new technology, with many unsure how. St Mary’s is therefore both expanding degree programmes to ensure students develop these skills, and expanding access for residents to courses such as digital marketing to increase skills levels locally.
South West London is a hub for significant sporting activity, with the RFU at Twickenham Rugby stadium, Lawn Tennis Association in Wimbledon, Harlequins Rugby Club, London Scottish and London Welsh rugby clubs, rowing on the Thames and race courses at Sandown and Kempton Park. There are particularly high levels of sporting participation in the area, with Richmond and Kingston among the top four boroughs in London for activity levels, far above the national average. There are therefore large numbers of SMEs involved in the sector and potential for this sector to grow.
St Mary’s developed an overarching institutional strategy in 2016, Vision 2025, supported by strategies on research and enterprise, engagement and teaching, following a lengthy consultation with University stakeholders, including staff, students, the local community, council and employers. This strategy identifies priority subject areas, and highlights our strong emphasis on employability and working with the local community.
Our strategic priorities are grounded in our Catholic mission, to serve the disadvantaged in society and improve our community, and we work with partners, who have informed our strategy and approach. Overall our objective is to support a more resilient and skilled local workforce, and to reduce the in-work poverty and higher unemployment which affect some of our surrounding communities.
St Mary’s strategic priorities are:
Business support: working with local businesses, providing facilities and advice;
Upskilling and retraining: to develop skills required locally, including in sports and creative industries;
Education and school leadership: improving educational outcomes locally and further afield.
Aspect 2: Activity
St Mary’s provides support for SMEs, with dedicated pages on our website. We offer consultancy on a commercial and voluntary basis using staff and students, gathering feedback from clients to shape future provision and consider further areas to offer.
St Mary’s runs the Social Enterprise Knowledge Exchange Network, bringing together over 100 members, many local, working in or with social enterprises. SEKEN runs seminars, conferences and practical workshops, publishing research papers to support the development and growth of small social enterprises.
To grow the local economy, the University has invested in helping students start their own businesses. With support from Santander Universities, we have set up Start Up St Mary’s providing training, support, mentoring and investment. A number of new businesses have been established, creating jobs and contributing to local economic growth, including Gusto and Avril Cassell Health and Nutrition.
We work with SMEs in the sporting sector, providing sporting expertise and business development support. For example, we have a long-term sports science partnership with Orecco and have been working with Nurvv Run, sharing expertise and identifying where collaboration could lead to growth.
Through this activity, we have identified local training needs, including marketing, consumer behaviour and insights, behavioural economics and digital media and we are expanding our provision to provide courses to develop these skills in the local area.
Upskilling and Retraining
Short Courses and CPD are key to our local growth work: to provide training in skills that we know are needed locally and create opportunities for upskilling and retraining. We have invested in our Short Courses team over the last three years to expand capacity and serve a wider audience.
Sports and Wellbeing
We run a range of courses in our areas of academic strength, such as sports massage, coaching, nutrition, anatomy and health and wellbeing. Many of these programmes are industry-accredited to enable students to gain employment or set up their own business.
We are currently exploring new courses to support recovery post-coronavirus as we are seeing heavy demand for courses that enable students to change career.
The Exchange arts venue was built as part of a local redevelopment. We run it, in partnership with the council, providing community arts access and reaching those not previously engaged with higher education. The Exchange provides opportunities for students and casual staff to gain experience working in a theatre, in both paid and voluntary roles, in customer service, front-of-house and technical roles. It also provides a venue for new acts, small arts businesses and charities to grow and contribute to the local economy.
We run a range of arts-related short courses, such as Theatrical Make-up, Creative Writing and Art & Painting, and have expanded our offer, including credit bearing courses. A number of students on our creative writing programmes, both short courses and postgraduate, have had their works published. We gather feedback from students and local organisations to identify potential programmes and courses, using intelligence and market analysis to identify gaps in local provision to shape our short course strategy. We have developed new courses in the arts, wellbeing and the theatre, to serve local economic need.
Education and School Leadership
St Mary’s has significant expertise in Education and teacher training and we provide a wide range of training and CPD for teachers and schools, especially in RE, PE and primary science. We have Primary Science Quality Mark leaders who help schools improve the quality of science teaching to increase the number of children leaving primary school with a solid grounding in science and maths, supported by research clusters on these subjects.
The SLP skills strategy identified a steep increase in the number of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in schools across the five boroughs. St Mary’s is building our expertise and contribution in this area, with an interdisciplinary educational wellbeing and resilience research cluster, a partnership with the South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust (SLaM), which has resulted in teacher conferences to support the improvement of mental health provision with schools, and the provision of postgraduate courses, CPD and skills development for schools in inclusive education and SEND.
We also work to ensure those from disadvantaged backgrounds have a better chance of succeeding in education: we have a research centre dedicated to the education of marginalised children; we run the First Star Academy which aims to get young people in care into further and higher education; and we are partners in the Transitions Hub, improving the educational chances of young people in care whose placement changes.
These projects will improve social inclusion for children with special needs and those living in care, and contribute to economic growth by ensuring more vulnerable children are able to fulfil their educational potential.
We also work with Achieving for Children, which runs children’s services for Kingston and Richmond boroughs, to support their career development programme, offering day visits and a week-long careers camp, in subjects such as physiotherapy and sports rehabilitation. We provide similar opportunities to Aim Higher and many local schools. This work supports, in particular, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, encouraging them to continue in education, contributing to social inclusion and economic growth.
Aspect 3: Results
We ask businesses to whom we have provided consultancy to evaluate the quality of service and areas of support they need. We publish information on our website about our services for businesses, with case studies demonstrating previous work and impact. Staff have produced research to monitor and evaluate impact, published in The Bottom Line journal. The Social Enterprise Knowledge Exchange Network also publishes research and hosts symposia to share good practice between universities and businesses.
We ask students to provide feedback evaluating their course and use this to revise and update programmes. We monitor the number of short course learner days each year, and it has increased by nearly 20% since 2017, reflecting both the numbers on each course and the expansion in subjects. We now offer 54 different programmes, with nearly 5000 learner days. We monitor the number of inquiries, applications and participants on each course, to support the evaluation by participants and tutors. This data informs decisions about course choice, design and content to ensure programmes are relevant, well delivered and serve community needs.
For some educational programmes, such as First Star, we measure school performance including GCSE results to identify the improvement over expected results following our intervention as well carrying out formal evaluation. In other areas, it takes much longer to see the impact so we measure engagement indicators, such as the number of teachers attending training or conferences and the number of schools with whom we work. Each Mental Health conference with SLaM attracted more than 130 teacher participants and we have provided Subject Knowledge Enhancement to 438 students over the last three years in 8 subjects, to build teacher supply capacity locally.
We monitor audience numbers and footfall at The Exchange to ensure programming is attracting audiences and we are providing the right services, facilities and shows. In 2018-19 footfall was approximately 50,000, above target. We adjust our programming, prices and the way we offer services taking account of these figures to ensure that we continue to serve the local community. Use of and footfall at The Exchange is monitored by our Governors to ensure that the venue is delivering what is needed and what the partnership with the Council envisaged when it was established.
Public & Community Engagement
Summary of approach
St Mary’s public and community engagement aligns closely with the university’s overall strategy, with a focus on sport, wellbeing and healthy ageing, influencing public debate and our Catholic mission.
We make extensive use of our facilities, from our world-class sporting amenities to our arts venue The Exchange, to ensure that a wide range of people benefit from our facilities and can access services using specialist equipment and expertise.
Our mission to support the more vulnerable in society is clear in our approach to public engagement, with activities such as the Centre for the Art of Dying Well and a focus on wellbeing and healthy ageing, using sport to address social inequalities and working on mental health in schools.
Aspect 1: Strategy
In 2016, St Mary’s published its institutional strategy, Vision 2025, following consultation with staff, students, partners and the local community. Alongside this sits an engagement strategy, identifying key objectives, audiences and activities. Given our significant expertise in sport and education, these are key priorities within our engagement strategy, alongside our Catholic mission.
A number of senior staff have responsibility for different elements of public and community engagement: the Provost has overall responsibility for public engagement, with activity delegated to Associate Deans for Research and Enterprise. The Director of Catholic Mission promotes external engagement to help the University contribute to society and Catholic public life.
St Mary’s strategic themes for engagement are:
Serving vulnerable communities
Engaging in public debate
Contributing to our Catholic mission
We have a wide range of sporting engagement: children’s sports clubs, physiotherapy and rehabilitation services, gym membership, staff and student involvement in local clubs. We make extensive use of our world class facilities, which include rugby and football pitches, athletics track, , state-of-the-art fitness and conditioning suite, labs and performance education centre.
On wellbeing and healthy ageing, we work with AgeUK to provide programmes including Man with a Pan, teaching single older men how to cook, improving their diet and providing social interaction, and a series of interactive sessions on subjects such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence. At The Exchange arts venue we host a range of community arts and wellbeing activities for all ages and provide intellectual stimulation through short courses, lectures and events.
Contributing to our Catholic mission, St Mary’s hosts the Centre for the Art of Dying Well, providing a website, podcasts, training, support and advice for those facing death or bereavement. Public engagement is at the heart of the Centre’s strategy, working with partner organisations, such as Demos to carry out research, and St Vincent de Paul Society to develop and deliver training for those on the frontline.
St Mary’s organises a programme of public lectures and events, with many hosted at The Exchange to provide easy community access. We run the Ideas Exchange to engage young people with our research and during the pandemic, we moved our lectures online, with a series of webinars exploring life after Covid-19. We also engage closely with public policy debates, particularly in education and faith.
Community Engagement’s Wider Role
Our community engagement contributes to other institutional priorities, including our Employability Strategy, by providing opportunities for students to gain experience working and volunteering; our People Strategy by retaining excellent staff and recognising and rewarding a range of strengths and experience in our career pathways; and our Research and Enterprise strategy, by enabling us to expand our impact through meaningful, multi-faceted relationships with organisations within our local area and further afield. These are explicitly linked within our Vision 2025 strategy.
Aspect 2: Support
St Mary’s provides significant practical support: physical resources are provided free or at very low rates including the Nutrition Suite, laboratories, Performance Education Centre, sports facilities and drama facilities.
Our Nutrition Suite is used for AgeUK’s Man with a Pan; schools hold annual sports day on our race track; and the facilities at Teddington Lock support local rugby and soccer clubs.
All our sporting facilities are available for use by the general public as well as elite athletes, and our facilities are used by national sporting organisations to upskill staff and provide training.
The Exchange arts venue hosts public lectures, classes and activities. The Waldegrave Suite on the main campus is used for public talks, and is available for hire.
The St Mary’s website has pages dedicated to public engagement with information on the institution’s overall strategy and our engagement strategy.
We promote upcoming public events, campus facilities open to the public, and our other services . We also provide targeted information for schools, businesses and local employers.
In addition, we have separate webpages dedicated to community access to sport facilities, consultancy and children’s sport.
Across the institution, a large number of academic staff undertake engagement activities and St Mary’s enables academic staff to deliver engagement through workload planning. Dedicated professional services staff support activity: helping to manage partner relationships; providing professional bid writing, project management support and donor stewardship support; providing expert support to organise lectures and conferences; and managing short courses and CPD.
Training in public engagement is provided for research students within the Researcher Development Programme, and we have a Public Engagement expert-in-residence available to students year-round.
Recognition and Reward
Public and community engagement is considered a key activity for academic staff. Time is built into workload for enterprise and engagement activity, and it is recognised and rewarded on our career paths. We have three routes to promotion: Research, Teaching and Scholarship and Enterprise and Engagement. Since these were introduced 2 years ago, staff in both faculties have successfully applied for promotion based on enterprise and engagement, raising the profile of public engagement within the University and ensuring it is rewarded in a meaningful way.
Aspect 3: Activity
Our objectives are ensuring community use of our facilities, sharing expertise with elite athletes, creating opportunities for students to gain work experience.
These are delivered through a range of activities:
A programme of children’s sports clubs after school and during holidays. We welcome over 8,000 children to campus each year, offering a range of activities with trained coaches, many of whom are St Mary’s Students. We encourage regular physical activity by offering sports including football, rugby, athletics and gymnastics.
Consultancy services to athletes, community sporting clubs and the public. We operate a physiotherapy and rehabilitation clinic, providing work experience for students, fitness training, gym membership and strength and conditioning support.
Services for elite athletes using our academic expertise, specialist equipment and the latest research, including metabolic assessments, physiological profiling, environmental training and body composition analysis.
Our sports scientists provide support and advice in community settings, offering rehabilitation advice at London Scottish Rugby Family Days, coaching and advising local clubs, such as Teddington Junior Cricket, and providing psychological support at boxing clubs.
Strength and Conditioning support for the Royal Ballet, enhancing dance performance, injury prevention and recovery after injury. This work also informs several research projects.
With Weir Archer Academy for wheelchair athletes, enabling disabled athletes to use our sport science and strength and conditioning facilities, giving St Mary’s students the opportunity to provide sport science support and coaching to Paralympic athletes.
These programmes improve levels of activity and fitness amongst children and the general public, and contribute to community sport. They help develop new knowledge and skills amongst students and staff, giving our teaching and sports students valuable experience and the opportunity to gain coaching qualifications.
Wellbeing and healthy ageing
Working with partners, we aim to improve physical and mental wellbeing:
With AgeUK we provide mental stimulation and wellbeing programmes
We host community arts and wellbeing activities for all ages at The Exchange, including pregnancy yoga, older people’s dance classes, children’s drama, arts classes for adults with mental ill health or learning disabilities, and intellectual stimulation through short courses, lectures and events.
We deliver breast health awareness materials to schools aimed at increasing teenage girls’ activity levels.
We work with South London and Maudsley NHS Trust on mental health in schools, including developing a Teacher Wellbeing Award.
These programmes contribute to increased wellbeing in our community, with improved levels of fitness and intellectual engagement, as well as contributing to research development.
Our Catholic mission underpins and informs a number of engagement activities, both engaging in the public sphere and supporting vulnerable communities:
The Benedict XI Research Centre on religion within contemporary societies has an extensive public engagement programme, including participating in debates in Parliament on housing shortage; researching free school meals; hosting debates; and media activity.
The Catholic Social Thought blog considers current political and societal dilemmas through the lens of Catholic social principles, with subjects as diverse as climate change, government debt, schools and tax transparency
The Art of Dying Well provides resources and podcasts for those dealing with death
St Mary’s First Star Academy works with young people in care to help them achieve at school and go on to higher and further education
These programmes enable St Mary’s to contribute to important public debates and shape the delivery of public services.
Aspect 4: Results and learning
We evaluate the impact of our activity through institutional KPIs: for example, we monitor the impact of our employability strategy via graduate outcomes data and in 2020, we had one of the highest graduate employment rates in the UK, with 98% of our graduates in employment after 15 months. We also monitor footfall and engagement through our HE-BCIS return. Evaluation of individual programmes takes many forms.
Conferences, sports services, public lectures and practical sessions, including those run with AgeUK, are evaluated by participants, and in the case of AgeUK, by the organisation itself. The AgeUK programme has received extremely high satisfaction ratings: last year 100% of attendees of Man with a Pan rated the programme as excellent or good and every cohort has been full since launched in 2016, demonstrating that it fills a need. 100% of 3D printing workshop attendees rated it as excellent and identified subjects for future sessions. Feedback is used to design future programming and ensure we are meeting needs.
In-built evaluation and monitoring
Our programme with the Royal Ballet has continuous monitoring, assessment and evaluation. Currently we are monitoring dancers’ engagement with strength and conditioning training adjusting the programme to increase engagement levels. The next stage will assess the impact of sessions on reducing injury incidence. We disseminate findings through conferences, articles and media coverage.
Following provision of business consultancy, we ensure businesses have received the support they needed, and their feedback and evaluation has provided data for a number of research papers published in the journal the Bottom Line. Our work with teachers on mental health in schools is informing research in this area.
The Art of Dying Well monitors website and podcast traffic using detailed analytics. Last year it had over 250,000 unique visitors.
For public lectures and events, we monitor ticket sales and audience numbers to identify popularity and shape future programming. Attendee numbers at The Exchange have increased dramatically since it opened in 2017, demonstrating we are meeting a local need. In 2018-19 we held 128 events and had footfall of approximately 50,000.
Aspect 5: Acting on results
We use feedback and evaluation to shape future programmes. For example, the Art of Dying Well closely monitors website traffic, identifying popular subjects and where more information is required. For example, during Covid19 monitoring traffic flows identified areas for future development and are working with partners to develop new services.
Following participant feedback, we have provided additional workshop sessions for AgeUK in areas they would like to explore. We have used feedback from families attending Simmsport to develop new programmes, such as additional gymnastics courses to increase the number of girls attending.
The University regularly monitors KPIs and other performance data, including on engagement activity. These are reported at SLT and to the Board of Governors, with staff presenting on engagement, employability, knowledge exchange and research development.
The University is currently undertaking a review of Vision 2025, evaluating progress, success and challenges using data analysis, project evaluations, feedback and other sources. This process will result in amended plans up to 2025 and will feed into the University’s planning cycle in future years.