Region and Society
Find out more about Aston University and the social purpose that is core to our mission
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. (local community click here)
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. Due to our location, much of our work is carried out in the West Midlands, however, we're proud to say that we have been known to help countries as far as Kenya and India.
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.
As a Civic University, our 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 concentrating on specific objectives so that can achieve impact with our available resources. It is our mission to work with local citizens and regional bodies to make a transformational difference on issues that matter to them.
We are supported in our work by the Civic University Network.
Aston University celebrated the official launch of its civic agreement with strategic partners from the city and region at an event hosted by Aston Villa Football Club on Wednesday 8 June.
Aston University’s agreement sets out its commitment to wide-ranging collaborations on a range of themes centred around the recovery of the city and its citizens after COVID-19 through initiatives on improving health and wellbeing, reducing inequalities, support for businesses, environment and sustainability, crime and justice, and education and employment.
View our partner videos here.
In December 2022, Aston University was awarded University of Sanctuary Status, joining a network of higher education institutions across the UK working to develop support for those displaced by humanitarian crises.
Universities of Sanctuary is an initiative to recognise and celebrate the good practice of institutions welcoming people seeking sanctuary through facilitated access to higher education, supporting local refugee communities and taking an active role in learning about the issues and obstacles faced by this group in pursuing university-level education. The award of University of Sanctuary status comes after a rigorous assessment process during which Aston University demonstrated its commitment to engaging and supporting those seeking sanctuary in a number of ways.
The Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship has transformed the 'perceptions' of ethnic minority entrepreneurs
The Aston Centre for Growth has helped hundreds of regional SMEs to improve their productivity and revenue
Learn how our dedicated Alumni team works with local, national and even international businesses to offer a range of community benefits
Our HR teams have worked extensively with the local population to upskill and employ those seeking qualifications and jobs
Our Student Recruitment and 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
Our Students' Union (SU) societies raise money for worthwhile causes, including helping communities in the local area. Previous initiatives have included helping refugees integrate into Birmingham's society and setting up an on-site food bank
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.
How we're embedded sustainability
Go Green champions - Go Green Champions are chosen from teams across the University, Conference Aston and Student Union and work hard to improve our sustainability at Aston and get involved in our Go Green Workbook.
Sustainability/Environment team - Sustainability is key for the university and we are focussing particularly on delivering 1. Sustainable Campus; 2. Sustainable Communities; 3. Sustainable Development in Academic Activities’
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 their public engagement strategy and to encourage staff and students to engage in an impactful way with the public.
Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (BCHC) and Aston University signed a Memorandum of Understanding In August 2021. We pledged to work together to co-develop preventative health initiatives and the community workforce of the future to deliver them. BCHC provide high quality community and specialist healthcare services within Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Find out more at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust (BWCH) provides world-leading specialist healthcare services to children and adults. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with BWCH in July 2022, joining forces to develop world-leading healthcare provision. Our collaborative partnership will support research, clinical provision and innovation in the field of healthcare.
Find out more at Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust
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 citizensuk
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 Aston Villa Foundation
LoveBrum is a registered charity that supports local, often volunteer-led projects to deliver real change to people and businesses of Birmingham. Focusing on those hidden gem causes that do not receive the platform or funding they deserve, Aston University is supporting LoveBrum to reach out to all corners of the city to build a better Birmingham.
Find out more at LoveBrum
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 Midlands Innovation
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 Greater Birmingham Chambers
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 West Midlands Growth Company
We’re proud of the impact that our research has had on our region and society.
Dr James Brown, Deputy Director of External Relations, worked with BAFTA-nominated TV show Old People's Home for Four Year Olds to improve the physical and psychological health of older adults.
Aston University Research, led by Dr James Brown, focused on the ageing process and how frailty can be measured, prevented and treated in older adults. Dr James Brown was part of a multi-disciplinary team consisting of clinicians with knowledge of intergenerational activities for the intergenerational study to assess the effects of such activities on frailty in older adults.
Project RWAD: A project, run by a Syrian academic has helped almost 50 refugees from his native country to become entrepreneurs.
Read the news article on Almost 50 refugees helped into business by aston expert.
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.
Read more about the The West Midlands Regional Economic Development Institute (WM REDI)
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.
This footage was filmed in 2021 when we asked our students to chat with some Aston Villa football players about what Black History means to them.
Aston University student Jamie talks about Black History with Aston Villa’s Anita Asante.
Safeena chats with Aston Villa’s Keinan Davis.
Josh sits down with Aston Villa’s Elisha N’Dow.
Agosta questions Aston Villa’s Axel Tuanzebe about Black History.
Morag has a conversation about Black History with Aston Villa’s Marisa Ewers.
Shareece meets Aston Villa’s Matty Cash to discuss Black History.
In this project, run by Dr Alan Goddard, researchers are inviting members of the public who might be bakers and home brewers to send in their yeast strains that will be tested for alcohol and sugar tolerance. By collecting a large number of yeasts and testing them, they hope to learn how microbes adapt to stressful conditions.
Hear podcasts from researchers at Aston University and the team behind the global science festival, Pint of Science.
Read the news article on University delivers pint sized science online new podcast series.
An important part of our contribution to our region is through volunteering activities undertaken by our staff, students and our alumni community
Are you already working with the community? We might be able to help you do this on a larger scale or promote the help to our Aston University colleagues and partner organisations.
Tell us about the work you're doing in the community by emailing aston engages.
The University's volunteering scheme grants our staff the equivalent of two days' paid leave to take part in volunteering activities with our partner charities and other organisations throughout the region.
Visit the Staff Volunteering page to find out more and sign up.
We encourage our students to volunteer alongside their studies. Participating students have said that it has enhanced their University experience by helping them make friends, 'give something back' to society, and improve their CV.
We have a wide range of opportunities for you to get involved with, including supporting other students within Aston University, supporting businesses and community projects.
Approved volunteer work can be added to your Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR). Log into the JobShop for a list of current opportunities.
You can help students, your fellow alumni and the university by sharing your time, connections and advice.
Find out how you can volunteer and bring the benefits of your skills, knowledge and experience to students and the wider community.
The ‘Aston Talks’ online public lecture series, which is open to all, will showcase a selection of the impactful research happening across the University, as well as celebrating the achievements of some of the University's professoriate.
Members of the public are able to take advantage of Sport Aston, the home of Aston University Sport and Fitness. Our state of the art gym, 25m pool and fitness classes are open to all.
Members of the public can book our city centre, COVID-secure conference centre and events venue. Our tailor-built space has 163 4-star hotel rooms, 30 meeting rooms and training rooms for up to 650 people.
The College of Health and Life Sciences at Aston University operates a number of specialist clinical services for members of the public.
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
Mark Smith, Executive Director of Business and Regional Engagement
Mark takes strategic responsibility for all business engagement activities at the University and showcases the commercial 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), Degree Apprenticeships and other initiatives. 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 big projects including establishing new airports and fostering enterprise in inner-city areas.
Email: c/o firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah McConaghy, Regional Engagement Manager (Policy)
Hannah’s core focus is to engage and develop relationships with regional bodies, local MPs, Cllrs and other partners to support the implementation and embedding of Aston’s Civic University Agreement and to further Aston’s role in the region. Hannah works with colleagues across the University to develop and implement civic projects, amplifying the impact of this work and enabling Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region to benefit from the work of Aston’s academics.
Rosa Amato, Regional Engagement Manager (Sports and Communities)
Rosa manages key stakeholder relationships with sport and community organisations in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. Until recently, Rosa has focused on Aston University’s sponsorship of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, co-ordinating activities on site and leveraging the various opportunities. Whilst she is still managing the B2022 legacy piece, Rosa now focuses on Aston University’s sponsorship of Aston Villa FC, working across the University to create a joined up approach of all activities.
Rosa also takes the lead with other strategically important projects that fall within the Civic University Agreement for example, the Staff Volunteering Scheme and Community Champions.
Professor Jo Andrews, Professor of Communications
Jo is focusing upon two projects both of which engage a number of our supportive partner institutions.
Jo was instrumental in developing a Young Women into Leadership (You WIL) summit which was delivered for the first time in July and August 2021. This international Leadership programme demonstrated a successful partnership between the University, Birmingham City Council, the Lord Mayor’s Office and the US Embassy.
More than 80 girls from Birmingham and the city’s international sister cities logged on for a week of female speaker engagement and cross-cultural team presentations. Following the excellent participant feedback, planning is now underway for an even more ambitious programme of You WIL events for 2022.
In addition Jo is supporting the existing relationship between the University and the Aston Villa Women team with a particular interest in developing the personal and professional development of the players towards aspirations and careers beyond professional football.
Get in touch for more information or to discuss any aspect of our region and society engagement in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands.