Funding boost for students to work with business and communities

Twenty universities and colleges have been awarded funding for projects to boost students’ involvement in activities to share knowledge and skills beyond the academic community.

Bookcase in the shape of a head

A total of £10 million – announced in October 2019 by the Universities Minister – has been awarded by the Office for Students (OfS) and Research England to projects which will seek to understand the benefits to students of getting involved in partnerships with businesses, engagement with communities and third sector organisations, and professional training – collectively known as ‘knowledge exchange’ activities.

In 2017-18, English universities generated over £3.7 billion from knowledge exchange activity. As part of this, they helped to create over 3,500 graduate start-up businesses, attracting over £146 million of investment. Students play a significant role in this activity by, for example, establishing start-ups and spin-off companies, and providing skills and expertise for businesses, public services and community groups through consultancy, internships and work placements.

The projects awarded funding today seek to identify how students benefit from this involvement, and address issues of equality, diversity and inclusion within knowledge exchange activities. Understanding best practice in this area will be key to ensuring that students’ involvement in knowledge exchange activities is helping to shape them into graduates who are well prepared for the world of work.

While funding awards to institutions have now been confirmed, the OfS will agree with universities what can be reasonably achieved during their initial months of work due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This may include agreeing revised timescales or changes to planned activities. This approach recognises that providers and individual projects are likely to be affected in different ways during this period.

Funding has been awarded to:

  • York St John University
  • Brunel University London
  • Royal Northern College of Music
  • Keele University
  • The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Plymouth Marjon University
  • University of Exeter
  • University of York
  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Huddersfield
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • Pearson College
  • University of Greenwich
  • Edge Hill University
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Portsmouth
  • University College London (UCL)
  • University of Plymouth.

Projects will explore a range of knowledge exchange activities, including free-to-access courses run in partnership with the NHS for mental health service users, start-ups in the creative industries, and pro bono, social impact-driven consultancy and venture capital services.

Read more about the funded projects


  1. The Office for Students (OfS) is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Our aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
  2. Research England shapes healthy, dynamic research and knowledge exchange in English universities. It distributes over £2.2 billion to universities in England every year, and supports and challenges them to create new knowledge, strengthen the economy, and enrich society. Research England is part of UK Research and Innovation, alongside the seven Research Councils and Innovate UK.
Published 20 April 2020

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