Our beneficiary-led strategy means that serving our region and society is a crucial part of our work. In addition to our role as a significant local employer spending a major portion of its income in the region, we aim to engage our local community through a range of projects and initiatives tailored to their needs.
We work in partnership with local communities to encourage all members of society – regardless of age, ethnicity or gender – to consider a university degree. Whether as an undergraduate, through one of our degree apprenticeship programmes or by embarking on postgraduate study.
Our staff and students regularly volunteer to support regional national and international projects and causes. This includes taking on roles such as school and hospital governors, faith leaders, maths coaches, Guides and Scouts leaders, and police cadets. Our people actively support causes such as employability, human rights, the LGBTQ+ community, homelessness, the environment, culture and performing arts, as well as supporting senior citizens and refugees. Although much of our work is carried out in the West Midlands, we have also helped with international civil protection in countries as far as Mexico and India.
We actively listen to communities to understand their needs and challenges. This informs our direction, including our research, ensuring that we work on relevant projects that have a tangible, positive impact on the West Midlands region.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, the University worked hard to support our students, staff, and wider community. Find out more about Aston’s response to COVID19.
Dr Angela Jeffery, Director of Regional Strategy
Dr Angela Jeffery is Director of Regional Strategy at Aston University. Her core focus is on Aston’s engagement with our region and society in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. This includes the development of a civic university agreement focused on the needs of citizens and supported by our regional partners. Her role involves collaboration with local government, universities and community. Angela also coordinates Aston’s strategic projects focused on regeneration. She has worked in several roles at Aston spanning business development, commercialisation, intellectual property and account management and she previously managed Enterprise and Innovation at St George’s University of London.
Tel: 0121 204 3366
Angela is supported by:
Mark Smith, Executive Director of Business and Regional Engagement
Mark Smith leads on Aston’s engagement in the region. He takes strategic responsibility for all regional, civic and business engagement activities at the University and showcases the benefits of working with Aston to business, professional and public sector organisations. This includes Aston’s business growth programmes, student placements, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), and community engagement work.
Mark oversees the development of Aston’s degree apprenticeship programmes, allowing students to balance work and study over the course of their degree and gain the skills employers value. Aston has been a pioneer for this initiative in higher education and was the first university in the UK to produce degree apprenticeship graduates.
Mark joined Aston from Birmingham City University where he was Director of Enterprise and Employability. His career has involved working across government, regeneration and online education, taking on extensive projects including establishing new airports and fostering enterprise in inner-city areas.
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Tiago Moutela, Regional Engagement Officer
Tiago Moutela is a Regional Engagement Officer at Aston University. His role focuses on supporting Aston's engagement with our region and society, he is also supporting the implementation of our civic university agreement. He coordinates the Regional Newsletter and is working with the Student Projects Office on staff volunteering.
Tiago is also a part-time PhD student in Health Psychology and has worked in different roles at Aston as a researcher within the Psychology department, as well as in Public Engagement with local community groups, Citizens UK and the Aston Villa Foundation.
Ed Ruane, Regional Public Affairs Manager
Ed Ruane is the Regional Public Affairs Manager at Aston University. His role is focused on engagement with MPs, councillors and other external stakeholders in the region. Working closely with local authorities and community groups to develop a strong working relationship that is mutually beneficial and supports the implementation and embedding of Aston’s Civic University Agreement, working in close partnership with regional and national bodies to benefit the West Midlands region.
His role involves keeping abreast of current policies, papers and implementation plans launched by regional bodies and engaging academics to develop projects to meet regional challenges and supporting them with grant applications.
Some of our work:
Across the University, a range of activities and projects support our work in the region and wider society. These include:
CREME has transformed the 'perceptions' of ethnic minority entrepreneurs by working with business policy-makers and influential organisations to engage collaboratively with overlooked or disregarded business communities.
Development and Alumni Relations Office
Learn how our dedicated Alumni team works with local, national and even international businesses to offer a range of community benefits.
Research & Knowledge Exchange
Public engagement is a vital part of effective knowledge exchange, and we make sure to involve the public at every possible stage. We approach individuals and communities to encourage participation in planning new research, inviting them to contribute to science and even co-produce projects where possible.
Human Resources (HR)
our HR teams have worked extensively with the local population to upskill and employ those seeking qualification and jobs.
Student Recruitment and Outreach (SRO)
The outreach team target schools, colleges and sixth-form learners from under-represented groups across the region in order to help widen access to higher education.
Aston as a Civic University
Cities need universities that can take positions of leadership to help tackle inequalities such as health and pupil attainment. Universities have a duty to inspire the next generation and support their citizens to achieve social mobility.
Aston’s commitment focuses on maximising the value we generate for the region by utilising our expertise and power as an anchor institution, whilst filtering effort and focusing on specific objectives so that we are able to achieve impact with our available resources.
We are supported in our work by the Civic University Network.
Our Civic activities
- Student Recruitment and Outreach
- Knowledge Exchange
- The Active Wellbeing Society has produced a video about the #BrumTogether community response to COVID: The relocation of the community food distribution centre to our SU building over the summer is featured at 4:10.
Regional Impact Assessment
Aston is a university that is strongly committed to Birmingham and the West Midlands region, serving the people who live, work and study here. Delve into a deeper independent analysis of our social and economic impact on students, businesses, professions and wider society via the link below.
Through our work, Aston partners with a range of different organisations.
Citizens UK provide the University with great links to local community groups. All members of Citizens UK sign up to support each other. This gives the University access to feedback from a diverse group of people on issues that matter to them, as well as a route to engagement for projects that are supported by the lead organiser of Citizens UK’s Birmingham chapter.
Find out more at www.citizensuk.org
Aston Villa Foundation
The Aston Villa Foundation is the charitable arm of Aston Villa Football Club, which supports initiatives in the community surrounding Villa Park and across Birmingham. The Foundation delivers schemes across sport, health, education, community safety and community relations agendas – including the Villa Vision project delivered in partnership with Aston University.
Find out more at www.avfc.co.uk/foundation
Midlands Innovation is a partnership of eight universities based in the Midlands with a strong focus on research – particularly in the areas of health, transport, energy and inclusive transformation. Our critical mass of academics, research income and expertise provides a strong platform for collaborative projects such as MICRA, TALENT, Doctoral Training Partnerships, and Energy Research Accelerator.
Find out more at www.midlandsinnovation.org.uk
Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce
We've been a patron of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce for many years, and this close involvement reflects the University’s respect for its membership base of local companies. The direct contract that the University enjoys with businesses through the branches of the Chamber helps us design service and research activity relevant to the immediate needs of business. Together, Aston, the Chamber and its other patrons work to create a 21st century business eco-system.
Find out more at www.greaterbirminghamchambers.com
West Midlands Growth Company
Aston University is a stakeholder in West Midlands Growth Company and plays a key role in collaborating to promote the region as a place to invest, meet and visit.
Find out more at www.wmgrowth.com
Our Projects and Case Studies
We’re proud of the impact that our research has had on our region and society.
- Old People’s Homes for 4 Year Olds
Dr James Brown, Director of Aston’s Research Centre for Healthy Ageing and Associate Dean for Public Engagement, works with Extracare on a TV programme that explores the benefits of intergenerational projects.
- Refugee Entrepreneurs
Project RWAD: A project, run by a Syrian academic has helped almost 50 refugees from his native country to become entrepreneurs.
We're a partner of the West Midlands Regional Economic Development Institute and lead on lifting the Lid on Enterprise Diversity & Growth in the West Midlands.
- Villa Vision
Our School of Optometry is working with Aston Villa Foundation to go into local schools and engage pupils in workshops to understand eye health care. We also use this opportunity to conduct eye screening and, for those that need it, eye tests and dispensation of glasses.
Engaging local citizens in Aston’s research
Prof Leon Davies (Optometry), Prof Frank Austermuehl (Translation studies), Prof Monder Ram (Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship) and Dr Angela Jeffery (Director of Regional Strategy) worked with Citizens UK and the Aston Villa Foundation to understand how the local population might engage in health research. The project provided a platform for engagement with local community in the wards of Nechells, Lozells, Aston, Newtown and Birchfield.
- Citizens Science
- Pint of Aston
Hear podcasts from researchers at Aston University and the team behind the global science festival, Pint of Science.
Are you already working with the community?
Tell us about the good work you do in your community by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include your name, the organisation you volunteer with (as well as a weblink to their site), and details of how you support them.
Sign up to the Aston Volunteer Scheme
Sign up now to stay updated on opportunities to help out in the community or directly at Aston University.
Many of our students get involved in volunteering activities during their time at Aston University, with activities ranging from community support to business placements or internships.
Approved volunteer work can be added to your Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR). Log into the JobShop for a list of current opportunities.
How our student volunteers have helped
The Active Wellbeing Society has produced a video about the #BrumTogether community response to COVID: The relocation of the community food distribution centre to our SU building over the summer is featured at 4:10.
We're proud to say that we're one of the 'greenest' universities in the UK and are ranked in the top 10 of the 2019 People and Planet University Green League. In 2020, we were named the Guardian University of the year, with judges noting that sustainability has been embedded into the Aston Culture. In the same year, we won the Guardian's 'Buildings that Inspire' category, which celebrates our newly build student-centred students' union building. Both staff and students were involved throughout the project, resulting in the new building reflecting the needs of a bigger, more diverse and modern student body that genuinely cared about sustainability and inclusivity. Made of sustainable wood, the building incorporates a low-carbon heating system drawing energy from more than 100 solar panels.
We’re proud to say that we are signatories to the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement’s (NCCPE) Manifesto for Public Engagement.
Each of our Colleges has a public engagement lead who works within their College to define theirpublic engagement strategy and to encourage staff and students to engage in an impactful way with the public.
• Celine Benoit – Associate Dean of Public Engagement, College of BSS
• James Brown – Associate Dean of Public Engagement, College of HLS
• Kate Sugden – Associate Dean for Enterprise, College of EPS
Get Involved: Community
- Attend one of our Aston Talks
- Access our facilities
- Access our Health clinics
- Volunteer to become a research participant