Pioneering Partnership with Plymouth University
Plymouth U3A and Plymouth University have been working together since 2010 and this mutually beneficial partnership has gone from strength-to-strength. As U3A membership levels have risen, so too have the opportunities for mutually beneficial engagement.
U3A members are invited to a plethora of public events on campus, ranging from lectures and workshops to art exhibitions and performances. They enjoy free eye care with optometry students and bespoke presentations from leading researchers, senior University staff and partners, arranged specifically for members according to interest areas. Throughout the year U3A members enjoy ‘behind the scenes’ campus tours, seeing first-hand the world-class research undertaken. These insightful visits, hosted by renowned professors, early career researchers and students, have included the:
- Immersive Vision Theatre where students are taught through immersing themselves in an environment relevant to their studies
- Electron Microscopy Centre with its incredibly powerful electron microscopes
- COAST Lab with its high-tech wave tanks, fundamental to marine research from renewable energy to coastal erosion
- Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence where scientists are working hard to advance the fight against brain cancer
Whilst our partnership creates regular opportunities for U3A members to engage in lifelong learning and connect to events in their community, it also ensures that the U3A plays a direct role in enhancing student experience and boosting public engagement in research. For example:
- Postgraduate students benefit from presenting their research to U3A members - intergenerational meeting of minds creating a vibrant dynamic through which students genuinely learn and develop new skills
- U3A members and international students come together at a weekly Languages Cafe to develop language skills, learn about respective cultures and support international student projects and dissertations
- Trained U3A members volunteer for The Listening Post, complementing the work of counsellors in supporting students experiencing real difficulties whilst at University – students really value having an older, more experienced person to confide in
- Academics and students from the School of Computing, Mathematics and Electronics deliver sessions for U3A members to support their safe use of new technology, from online shopping and social media to skyping overseas relatives - great interpersonal skill development for the students in return
Public engagement in research is becoming increasingly important within the higher education sector. Our partnership in Plymouth has seen members engage in research projects across the academic spectrum, including: oral history, dental and public health developments, optometry, physiotherapy and balance rehabilitation in older people, perceptions of the legal system, psychology, ageing and cognition. Similarly, student employability skill development is critically important and U3A members can support business competitions, be career mentors and deliver guest lectures to students.
So how do we make it work in Plymouth?
Not only is there is a shared email system to promote all opportunities to U3A members, promotion of opportunities at monthly meetings and newsletter content for those less digitally minded, but the U3A Plymouth committee have a designated University Liaison role that provides a consistent point of contact to coordinate activity. In addition, there are a further four U3A subject coordinators who develop links with academics in the areas of marine, science and technology, health and well-being, arts and humanities, and languages, aligned to academic teaching and research strengths of Plymouth University.
A partnership steering group coordinates opportunities and any new ideas from members for collaboration.
To explore new opportunities with Plymouth University please contact our University Liaison committee member through the website contact form.