Ravensbourne MDes organized a day of talks about the civic university. The main question was what civic actually means nowadays and also how the role of a university has changed, or not? One clear answer was not there, although it became clear that a university has the role to create civic minded students. Thanks to the speakers, here shown (from left to right) are Estelle Morris, Neil Jameson, Mikko Koria and Vanessa King.

Estelle Morris, former MP and education secretary, opened the speeches. She kicked off with a wonderful explanation of the role of a university back in the days. Where a university also developed the library, took care of the neighborhood or even set a status quo for the rest of the town. She laid a heavy question on our shoulders saying that we as students might not have that connection with a university nowadays since we travel a great deal and we are not as connected to our university. Since I am from the Netherlands where university’s are named after our cities but they do not connect with the cities the way Estelle explained. 

Neil Jameson is founder of Citizens UK and this is what he spoke about together with two members of Citizens UK. The role of this organisation is societal activism that is been organised by the people and helps getting more attention for topics that are being swept underneath the carpet. What I found especially interesting to hear was the way they have grown from East London to communicating throughout the whole UK. 

Mikko Koria, professor from Aalto and Loughborough University this day he reflected on the project he runs at Aalto University. The project takes place in Nigeria and he has been doing this project for many years. The first years the social projects they undertook were not embraced by the local community. But later the projects about toilets and washing hands was embraced because of one simple change: the local community became part of the development of these project. To me this sounded extremely logical, yet so many designers are designing from their studio and forget that not all people are like them.

Vanessa King is board member of Action for Happiness and what they share she shared with us. It is all about making sure wellbeing is part of the profit that one takes out any project or in any place. Wellbeing is a part of our life that we might take for granted, and if it is not there people often say: oh yeah what can you change. The way Vanessa put it was more about how we also create wellbeing for all of us. 

This day has not taught me how a civic university will be in the future, I have found out that education is more than giving student knowledge. The responsibility we have in life is to educate ourself constantly and the students in school have to take away the responsibility they have towards any community they feel attached to.