Knowledge Exchange

Buckinghamshire New University’s (Bucks) mission is to transform lives through inspiring, employment-focused education, enabling people to build a better world. Research and knowledge exchange activity enriches our inclusive, learning community. It will help us to innovate and continually improve our enquiry-based education.

Through our applied focus, Bucks’ research and KE activities arise due to professional practice or educational need, with practitioners, stakeholders and service users at the heart of its development. Some of our partners include Thames Valley Police, Buckinghamshire NHS Healthcare Trust, West London Mental Health NHS Trust, Buckinghamshire Council, Chiltern Landscape partnership, High Wycombe Museum, Ad Astra teacher training network and the Traveller Movement.

Bucks Research and Enterprise Strategy for 2018 - 2023 includes objectives specifically related to KE:

  • Build our capacity in distinctive and impactful collaborative research through widened public and stakeholder engagement.
  • Develop the number and significance of our external research and enterprise partnerships so as to maximise access to funding and support KE.
  • Maximise the synergies between research, our curriculum and our teaching, contributing to future TEF and KEF submissions by ensuring that our academics are able to exploit the two-way interplay between research and the development of new and existing curriculum and teaching.

Bucks KE activities are primarily focused on:

  • Collaborative research: Academic research commissioned by sector needs and funded by health care, charities and government departments and competitively sourced collaborative projects.
  • Collaborative training: Enabling researchers to develop the relevant skills to undertake impactful KE, work effectively in professional practice and exploit the outcomes of their research.
  • People and information exchange: While recently focussed within EU-funded programmes, new initiatives are underway to support local innovation and business growth.

Case Studies

Bucks HSC Ventures, a 3-year European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) virtual accelerator programme, was established in Summer 2018 in order to:

  • Support health and social care entrepreneurs to generate viable businesses and commercialize innovations
  • Demonstrate that Buckinghamshire is “open for business” to work with innovative SMEs
  • Develop a pipeline of innovative SMEs to support business creation
  • Support faster commercialization and adoption into the health and social care sector

The programme is led by Buckinghamshire New University and expertise is provided by the programme partners (Buckinghamshire New University, Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Buckinghamshire Council and Oxford Academic Health Science Network) in the form of matched funding for their time.

The partners already work to support a culture of innovation in their own organisations and regionally, but this partnership, focused on health and social care, offers Buckinghamshire a novel mechanism for growing businesses and to support the development of the region’s health, social care and MedTech economies.

Bucks HSC Ventures offers a unique opportunity for innovators to work alongside academics, clinicians, provider organisations and payors (commissioners) within the health and social care system to develop and co-create innovations that meet the needs and priorities of the local area, and which have potential for regional, national and global impact.

The Programme consists of a series of workshops curated by the delivery partners and paid consultants. There is also a six-month cohort programme where 7 - 15 organisations are given individualised support with experts from within the system. Each organisation receives bespoke one-to-one support to help develop an innovation which the delivery partner organisations believe will have a positive impact on the Buckinghamshire Health and Social Care System.

The enterprises receiving support through the Programme have been enthusiastic about the quality of delivery, the access they have received to health and social care decision makers and the collaborative response they have received, particularly from the Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust and Buckinghamshire Council.

According to Keith Binding, founder of Binding Science Ltd who was a participant in cohort 2, “One of the best parts of this programme was facilitating introductions to relevant stakeholders. This support is utterly invaluable, particularly when trying to access organisations that are as labyrinthine as the NHS and the social care ecosystem.”

In addition to outputs, Bucks HSC Ventures activities have had a multiplier effect within the region. This initiative has linked more widely with the Buckinghamshire LEP’s Local Industrial Strategy and is a cornerstone to the LEP’s MedTech strand, which is one of the four pillars of the Local Industrial Strategy. The delivery team has brought together a wider planning group to develop the MedTech strategy for the region and partners include local industry (Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, June Medical and Mediplus), the Buckinghamshire LEP, Bucks Business First, Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, Oxford Academic Health Sciences Network and Buckinghamshire Council. The ultimate goal is to paint a joint future vision for growth and innovation within this sector in Buckinghamshire. The aim is to develop a joined-up ecosystem for health and social care innovation, growth and regeneration and Bucks HSC Ventures is the delivery engine for this vision.

Our richly diverse student body has a high proportion of students drawn from ethnic minorities and from low-participation areas within the surrounding area. We build social capital as well as skills and competences to help our students reach their full potential and success in their chosen careers and professions.

Since our founding in 1891 as the School of Science and Art in High Wycombe, the mission of Bucks has been to transform lives through employment-focused and skills-based teaching. Our vision is to be a leading university for professional and creative education and applied research that is accessible to all. Bucks maintains a highly diverse student intake. We are above the sector average for our mature (49.9% vs 27.8%) and Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) (42.4% vs 31.1%) population of students. The diversity in our student body reflects our longstanding and highly successful work to reach out to under-represented groups in higher education, to provide an environment and form of education that meets their needs, and to support them into high levels of graduate employment.

Our commitment to widening participation is three-fold:

Access to higher education:

  • Increase the rates of access for students from the areas of lowest higher education participation.
  • Increase in the proportion of students declaring a disability.
  • Increase in the number of students declaring care-leaver status.
  • Adopt a new and ambitious focus on groups where equality may be harder to achieve with a focus on young carers, children from military families, and students identifying as being from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
  • Maintain high levels of equality in relation to access for all groups.

Succeeding in higher education:

  • Close the small attainment gap between BAME and White students; between students from the most deprived and least deprived areas; and between male and female students. (Attainment is measured in terms of those who achieve a 1st or 2.1 degree award vs other classification).
  • Nurture an academic community to which students feel they belong to ensure strong retention for all learners.

Successful employment after graduation:

  • Improve the rates of highly skilled employment for students from the areas of lowest participation; young students; and for BAME students.
  • Increase the opportunities for all students to enter highly skilled employment or further study.

Our historic mission has always been to open the doors of higher education to all who can benefit, regardless of background or circumstance. We passionately believe in equality of opportunity, and in supporting those who may experience disadvantage and hardship. Some of the community engagement programmes we run in order to widen participation include:

Study Higher - Focusing on POLAR4/Q1 pupils from target schools, groups take part in workshops, Futures Days, and residential visits to Bucks.

An impactful activity in the Study Higher programme is our “Simulate your Future” immersive simulation van. This is an interactive mobile unit that provides an immersive experience about people’s journeys into careers. (See photo below.)

interactive mobile unit that provides an immersive experience about people’s journeys into careers.

Future Days - Targeting Year 9 students in under-represented communities, the University opens its doors for a day-long programme designed to make them feel comfortable in a higher education environment.

Discovery Days - Similar to Future Days, this programme supports Year 10 students in making their career choices whether it is 6th form, college, apprenticeships and whether or not they would like to pursue a path to higher education.

Outreach Days - The University also runs 25 outreach days per annum in which representatives from the University visit local schools with the goal of breaking down the barriers to higher education.

Professor Margaret Greenfields from Buckinghamshire New University played a pivotal role in a community-based project to champion the health needs of marginalised communities, one of which are “boaters” or canal dwellers. Commissioned by the Bath and North East Somerset council, this community outreach project was the first time the health status of “boaters” has been analysed. Findings from this study has revealed that members of these populations are marginalised from mainstream health care and experience significant barriers to access to service, which have a negative impact on their health.

The aims of the project were to improve understanding of the health needs of the boater community with a particular emphasis on their experience of accessing health services, and health behaviours. This is the type of community outreach project that reflects the values of Buckinghamshire New University. The university passionately believes in equality of opportunity, and in supporting those who may experience disadvantage and hardship.

The ultimate objective of this community outreach project was to deliver a reliable information source to inform the planning and commissioning of health services and to figure out the best service model to meet the needs of this community, which largely remains a hidden population.

Boaters in particular are likely to experience continual movement as a result of Canal & Rivers Trust regulations of moving every fortnight and, in many cases, GPs were in excess of 20 miles distant from the current place of residence. For this ‘forgotten’ population it was found that frequent, legally enforced movement creates the same complexities in accessing regular healthcare as faced by people who become street homeless. Boaters in particular reported experiencing numerous injuries associated with their way of life such as spinal injuries, falls, cuts and chainsaw accidents. One finding of particular concern regarded the very low level of reporting/help-seeking behaviour indicated by the survey in relation to domestic violence or substance misuse.

The same study asked health professionals to explore the difficulties they faced in supporting these diverse ‘hard to reach’ populations. They reported lack of knowledge, fear of ‘unknown’ populations, lack of cultural competence, and practical concerns such as keeping in contact with patients when they are being evicted or living in places with poor mobile phone coverage. Specific challenges also included the problem of ensuring continuity of care and medication compliance problems when patients have poor functional literacy (and health literacy) skills. Other reported concerns included worries about having to physically transverse gangplanks to bring equipment onto a narrowboat.

The research project was a ground-breaking project which shown a light on an underrepresented population. The Boater report was successful partly due to the fact that the research team involved community members as advisors and trained interviewers. This was true particularly in relation to “stigmatising” conditions such as mental health and substance use. They spoke to their own communities and brought back the evidence for collaborative analysis. The engagement was a two-way process that involved listening as well as interaction with the goal of ultimately learning how to better support the boater community.

This community outreach project shows that by working across boundaries and engaging all parties, access to healthcare can be improved for a group of people with specific needs such as the canal dwellers. Where trust is developed between health professionals and service users (the boaters) – typically through long-term engagement and close collaboration – health improvements are demonstrated among the population.

According to Professor Greenfields, “I think as a matter of social justice, we can’t deliver effective services without hearing the voices of the marginalised. Otherwise, it is the case of ‘doing to’ rather than ‘working in partnership’ with the communities. This is an ethical issue.”

The boater community has begun to see that their needs are taken seriously, and they are listened to, we can begin to open the door to opportunistic health promotion, screening and preventative interventions, rather than ‘crisis care’.

As a result of the report findings, a dedicated outreach officer was hired to reach out to the boater community. Since then, year on year, this position has been recommissioned. There are now two dedicated community outreach members on the Bath and North East Somerset council and one more has been commissioned in the neighbouring county of Wiltshire because of the transient nature of canal dwellers.

National Disability Art Collection & Archive (NDACA) - This project brings together 2,500 objects celebrating the history of the Disability Arts Movement on a website and through films and live events at Bucks.

Woodlanders Lives and Landscape - Preserving craft heritage, the Woodlanders Lives and Landscape project is a partnership with Bucks and the Chilterns Conservation Board. It is a community-based project to research, document and celebrate the lives of those involved in woodcrafts and in lace making, straw plaiting and tambour beading in the Chilterns in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Marginalised Communities - Margaret Greenfields, Professor of Social Policy and Community, works extensively in the field of social inclusion, ethnicity, equalities and social justice with an emphasis on collaborative research with communities at risk of marginalisation, racism and ‘othering’. She develops action programmes with vulnerable migrants; LGBT+ faith groups; and refugee and asylum-seeking women. She is known for her 25+ year’s work with the Gypsy/Roma/Traveller community.

As a result of Professor Greenfields’s efforts in the Gypsy/Roma/Traveller (GRT) community, the University convened a roundtable event hosted at the House of Lords in September 2019 to explore how the HE sector could work with this community to enhance access, retention and attainment.

Following the event, Bucks led the development of a network of partners to actively engage with the GRT community. She continues to spearhead outreach programmes in this community resulting in a greater understanding of this marginalised group within mainstream HE. In 2020, she was short listed in the Times Higher Education Awards for the “Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year.”

Feedback from the University’s GRT work has influenced the HE sector’s attitudes towards this marginalised community. We are working with a network of HEIs, NGOs, the OfS, NEON and the GRT community itself to assist in developing good practice activities and a pledge to support this community more effectively across the UK. The goal is to increase HE participation within this marginalised community by 10%.