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The University of Southampton

Southampton makes historic pledge to drive economic growth and tackle social challenges

Published: 10 March 2023
Councillors signing agreement
Southampton signs Civic University Agreement

A HISTORIC pledge to drive economic growth and tackle social challenges in South Hampshire has been made by university leaders and councillors from the region.

The joint commitment has established a Civic University Agreement which intends to improve the quality of life for people in the city and surrounding areas by connecting communities through culture, education and enterprise.

It was signed by representatives from the University of Southampton, which will lead the initiative, alongside Southampton and Winchester City Councils, Eastleigh and Test Valley Borough Councils and Hampshire County Council.

Pledges have been made for collective action on six priority areas which include creating more opportunities for education and new skills, reducing inequality, generating jobs and economic growth, sustainability, and investing in arts and culture.

University of Southampton Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith said: “We support a huge range of activities in Southampton and Winchester as well as the wider region, from our substantial contribution to the arts and culture in the region, to outreach by our academics and support for local groups. Our research, education, alumnus and outlook are global, but we are rooted in our community.”

The Civic University Agreement is a key recommendation in a report published by the Civic University Commission. The review underlines how UK universities have the capability, opportunity and responsibility to support their communities to solve the most pressing and major issues.

Leader of Southampton City Council Councillor Satvir Kaur said: “We look forward to building on our existing close working relationship with the University of Southampton to create a city of opportunity. They share our vision to be a city to be proud of, where people want to live, work, study, visit and enjoy. Southampton has huge potential economically and socially, and I look forward to unlocking that potential, becoming future-ready and delivering for our local communities.”

The Civic University Agreement underpins a wealth of activity from the University of Southampton in support of communities across the region. It remains the second-largest employer, after the NHS, and last year contributed £1.6 billion to the south east, a significant proportion occurs within Southampton itself, according to a London Economics report.

Councillor Martin Tod, Leader of Winchester City Council Councillor, said: “Winchester School of Art has been in the heart of our city for more than 150 years and the University of Southampton has been with us for nearly 30. We really value the University’s cultural, creative and economic contribution to our city’s life. We are excited by the opportunity presented by the Civic Agreement and the new energy it will bring to the many areas, where we can do more together to benefit the people of our city and district.”

In the south east region, the University of Southampton is leading social initiatives intending to bring people closer together – including its Cultural Education Partnership which works to improve the life chances for schoolchildren by embedding creative and cultural teaching from early years.

Its academics are also working to clean the Solent and other nearby waters by revolutionising chemical manufacturing – replacing petrochemicals derived from fossil fuels with repurposed waste CO2. The pioneering technology turns CO2 that would otherwise be released into the environment into polymers for used in furniture, cars, and clothing.

Southampton’s tourism industry receives more than £69million each year from the University, coming from around 23,000 study trips, business meetings and visits.

Councillor Derek Pretty, Cabinet Lead for Economy at Eastleigh Borough Council, said: “I’m very pleased to sign the Civic University Agreement as its aims are very much in line with our own. We strongly believe that, by working in partnership, what we achieve will be much greater than the sum of its parts, and I know that its leadership by one of the world’s highest-achieving universities will ensure that it is a success. We are an ambitious local authority whose priorities are very much aligned with those expressed in the Agreement.”

Councillor Philip Bundy, Cabinet Member for Planning at Test Valley Borough Council, said he was delighted to sign the Civic University Agreement, and added: “We will work closely with the University to highlight the local needs, maximise opportunities to support our communities and enable them to prosper.”

Hampshire County Council Leader Councillor Rob Humby said: “In signing up to the Agreement on behalf of the County Council, I am delighted to formally confirm our commitment to ensuring that Hampshire residents have access to excellent education and training opportunities, to build a future workforce with the necessary skills and capabilities to keep up with changes in business and industry needs.

“I am particularly pleased that we will work in partnership to this end, as I strongly believe this is the only way to achieve the best that we can. This will ultimately serve to help secure economic and social prosperity in our region.”

Find out more about the University Civic Agreement at - or read the formal agreement at

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