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New Institute for Social Renewal launched at Newcastle University

Newcastle University has launched a dedicated Institute for Social Renewal which will be a focus for research into global challenges such as stimulating enterprise, regenerating places and tackling health and education inequalities.

Drawing on the university’s expertise in social sciences, the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal will examine the key issues facing society today. World expert in rural development and policy, Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE, has been appointed as the new Director of the Institute. Professor Shucksmith is currently Professor of Planning at Newcastle – a post he has held since 2005. He takes up his new role in April 2012.

Professor Shucksmith said: “The challenge of social renewal is more relevant now than it has ever been. We are living in a period of rapid change and many uncertainties and the Institute is particularly interested in how this affects individuals, communities and organisations in important areas such as income and health. We will use our research to provide answers to some of the most difficult questions facing society now, especially in the current downturn, such as those around unemployment, inequality and opportunity.

“Newcastle is a world-class civic university with international standing in the social sciences. The creation of this Institute will help us to bring our knowledge and expertise to bear on the major challenges that impact on people’s everyday lives.

“Newcastle University’s ethos is ‘excellence with a purpose’; investment in this dedicated Institute for Social Renewal is a very tangible commitment to this.”

Some of Professor Shucksmith’s recent research has explored the situation of young people in rural areas. In a report to the European Parliament he showed youth unemployment has risen rapidly across rural Europe, but that rural youth receive little attention.  His report suggested how EU policies might become more effective in tackling these issues.

He has also looked at how rural communities can have a say in their future. He said: “Rural policy used to be about someone in government deciding what people in the countryside needed. That attitude has changed and I have been looking at how these communities can work together to imagine their future and to pursue their goals.”   

His research recently hit the headlines when he investigated the impact of planning and housing on countryside communities and revealed that in many parts of the UK rural villages were becoming exclusive ‘rich people’s ghettos’.

Professor Shucksmith chaired the Scottish Government’s Inquiry into the Future of Crofting, directed the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s rural programme and is a Commissioner with the Commission for Rural Communities, highlighting rural disadvantage and advising Government on how rural communities may thrive in the future.

Newcastle University Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Brink said: “The Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal will bring a fresh approach to some of the most difficult questions facing us today. Issues such as: helping communities and societies overcome deep-seated problems, increasing economic vitality, social harmony and the health and wellbeing of citizens will all be a focus of its research.

“Over the years Professor Shucksmith has spearheaded world-leading research into rural development issues and his knowledge, expertise and deep interest in social renewal make him the ideal person to lead this new Institute.”

Supported by research across Newcastle University, the Institute will address seven key themes:
•    Leadership, Citizenship and Governance
•    Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation
•    Heritage and Culture
•    Identity, Diversity and Inclusion
•    People, Place and Community
•    Digital Innovation
•    Well-being and Resilience

Newcastle University has identified three societal challenge themes that will be a focus of its research into addressing global issues:

•    The Institute of Ageing and Health is led by the Faculty of Medical Sciences and is based at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality.
•    The Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability is led by the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering and is based in the Devonshire Building.
•    The Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal is led by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal was launched at an event held at the university last night (Tuesday, 7 February) with keynote speaker Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

published on: 8 February 2012