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Civic University Agreement

Opening the doors of opportunity to East London and beyond
Our Civic University Agreement

As a large organisation rooted in place, we always strive to be the best anchor institution we can be. Our Civic University Agreement brings together new and ongoing activity at Queen Mary to ensure our work meets the needs of our neighbours and partners.

Opening the doors of opportunity

We are proud of our place within east London, one of the most diverse, creative and fastest growing areas of the capital and the UK. As a longstanding neighbour to over two million residents, there are a multitude of ways in which Queen Mary works with and for its local people, communities and partners.

The five themes outlined in our Civic University Agreement are a result of this collaborative process and represent a strong, evidence-based foundation upon which we can build our civic purpose in the months and years ahead.


A man and young boy playing mini golf at the Festival of Communities

1. Inclusive place-making

We will use our expertise as an anchor institution to champion local agendas, bring together others seeking to strengthen communities of place, and represent the needs of east London on a national and international stage.

Case study: the Festival of Communities

Exploring living and learning together in Tower Hamlets, the annual Festival of Communities is a collaboration with local organisations which provides an opportunity where Queen Mary staff and students, community groups and residents can come together to share ideas and experiences, find out about local opportunities and celebrate the best of their borough.

The activities at the festival showcase Queen Mary’s research, teaching and other initiatives alongside local organisations, and over 3500 families visit each year to learn something new or try something different. These varied activities range include hands-on experiments, sharing stories and views, interacting with demonstrations and trying out new sports.

School children visiting the Centre of the Cell

2. A healthy and sustainable future

Queen Mary has a vital role to play in protecting the future health and environmental sustainability of east London – from the health inequalities facing local residents, to the quality of the air we breathe.

Case study: CHILL (Children’s Health in London and Luton)

The CHILL study investigates the effects of reducing air pollution from traffic on children’s health. Working with primary school students, researchers from the Wolfson Institute of Population Health are investigating the effectiveness of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), whether the ULEZ reduces air pollution, and whether this reduction has a positive impact on children’s health compared to a control group in Luton.

Over 3,300 primary school pupils in London and Luton are taking part over four years to investigate the impact of reducing air pollution on children’s lung growth, respiratory symptoms, activity levels and brain function.

London City Institute of Technology

3. Pathways for life

As a major employer and education provider in east London, Queen Mary has an important role to play in improving the life chances of our neighbours. Social divides – such as wealth inequality and uneven access to new digital technologies – affect future life chances in east London.

Case study: London City Institute of Technology

The London City Institute of Technology is a collaboration between Queen Mary University of London, Newham College and a wide range of employers. It will specialise in delivering higher technical education and apprenticeships with a focus on STEM subjects, such as engineering, digital, and construction.

With £28m in funding from the Department for Education and the Greater London Authority, the Institute will play a vital role in creating secure, high-quality roles in areas where employers need future skills. The London City Institute of Technology will also help to fill local skills gaps by providing upskilling and reskilling opportunities for adults.

A woman in a sari dancing

4. A cultural hub for east London

East London is home to a rich arts and cultural sector, alongside strong networks of community and voluntary organisations.

Case study: Arts & Culture at Queen Mary

Arts & Culture at Queen Mary brings together creative practitioners, cultural organisations and Queen Mary staff and students to sustain long-term collaborations, student employment opportunities and research projects, across east London and the world. These projects focus on exchanging knowledge and expertise across sectors and research, teaching and collaboration at Queen Mary, drawing on arts and culture research and methodologies used across science, medicine and the humanities.

Staff in the School of English and Drama, for example, have been working with the local authority and local arts and cultural organisations on the annual Season of Bangla Drama since its creation in 2002. The festival brings together the best of British-Bengali theatre with a uniquely east London focus. It showcases local talent as well as putting the spotlight on a range of issues relevant to the British-Bengali experience. Its programme is in both English and Bengali, incorporating plays from east London as well as West Bengal, India and Sylhet Bangladesh.

People sitting by the canal on Mile End campus

5. Enabling civic practice

Our Civic University Agreement builds upon a history of civic and community engagement at Queen Mary, but our future place-based commitments cannot be achieved in isolation.

Case study: London Living Wage

The real Living Wage aims to have an impact on high rates of in-work poverty that affects millions of households in the UK by introducing a higher minimum pay threshold based on the amount a person needs to earn to cover the basic costs of living.

Queen Mary became the first accredited university in the UK to pay the real Living Wage in 2006, bringing outsourced cleaners in-house and introducing new working conditions for staff. By January 2008, every staff member at the University received a basic minimum package of 30 days’ annual leave, access to sick pay, an annually negotiated pay increase and an employer-contribution pension scheme.

As a principal partner of the Living Wage Foundation, research from Queen Mary’s School of Geography provided evidence to support the campaign for employers to adopt the Living Wage.

Timeline of Queen Mary in the local community


London Hospital Medical College was founded as England’s first official medical school.


St Bartholomew’s Hospital governors approved the provision of medical education within the hospital. The Medical College of St Bartholomew’s Hospital was subsequently incorporated by a charter granted by King George V in 1921.


Westfield College was founded to provide residence and instruction for women students preparing for the examinations of the University of London. In 1902 it was admitted as a School of the University of London, later merging with Queen Mary College.


The People’s Palace Technical Schools were founded in Mile End, as part of the People’s Palace project. They later became East London College.


East London College was admitted as a School of the University of London, and in 1934 became Queen Mary College by charter of incorporation granted by King George V, named after his wife, Mary of Teck.


Queen Mary College and Westfield College merged, becoming Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London.


The Medical College of St. Bartholomew’s and the London Hospital Medical College are dissolved and are merged with Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. In 2000, this officially becomes Queen Mary University of London.


Provide Volunteering, the Students’ Union extra-curricular student volunteering service is established to support students to volunteer their time with local projects, community groups and charities.


Queen Mary’s community Legal Advice Service is established. It provides free legal advice to members of the public, staff and students at Queen Mary, as well as running community outreach projects public legal education initiatives.


Queen Mary became the first university to become an accredited Living Wage Employer.


The Centre of the Cell opens in Queen Mary’s Blizard Institute. The first science education centre in the world to be located within working biomedical science laboratories, the Centre inspires the next generation of scientists with workshops, educational shows and online resources.


Queen Mary pledges to develop a Civic University Agreement in response to the UPP Foundation’s Civic University Commission.


Queen Mary becomes a founding partner of the Civic University Network, contributing to national conversations around universities’ place-based role and responsibility.


Queen Mary is ranked as the country’s top university for social mobility, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in partnership with the Sutton Trust and the Department for Education. The University becomes the first to receive the Platinum Engage Watermark for public engagement from the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.


Queen Mary launches our Civic University Agreement, a series of commitments that helps demonstrate how place-based civic engagement remains a core part of our mission as a University.


Read the full Civic University Agreement

You can download the full document at the link below.

Download our Civic University Agreement
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