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Reading University Invites Local Community For A (Virtual) Cuppa

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A new community initiative set up by the University of Reading is encouraging local residents to chat directly with University staff and students over a cup of tea… if virtual for the time being.

The new Cuppa Over… Community pilot scheme, aims to provide local residents with a chance to have their voices heard in a meaningful, personal and informal way about how the University engages with the community.


Sarah Gardner, Community Relations Manager at the University of Reading, said: “We want talk to community groups in Reading and build on existing relationships, especially now when many people are feeling isolated and could also benefit from access to University resources.

“We want to take the time to listen to local people’s perspectives, understand their needs and how we might be able to work with them. We recognise that surveys can feel impersonal, time consuming and frustrating if people don’t feel their feedback is going anywhere.

“This scheme is a much more personal approach. In a normal world, we would be having these conversations in person, but for the time being these are taking place online to keep our community safe.”

15 Minute Chat

Anyone in the local community can sign up for a 15-minute chat with a staff member or student at the University, when they will be taken through some questions to help gather their views on how the University should be working and interacting with the local community.

The University already has 40 volunteers signed up and a call for more volunteers went out last week. Feedback from the chats that have taken place so far has been positive.

“We’ve had some really interesting conversations with people, including a charity partner, a neighbour and a number of other community members,” continued Gardner.

“People have shared a range of ideas such as the University investing in co-beneficial community projects, such as sensory gardens or youth centres, and community members sitting on University committees to increase representation. The range of ideas shows how creatively the University could collaborate with people in Reading, which I find very exciting.”

Local Community

This scheme is part of plans for closer involvement of the University with the local community, which are currently being developed with Reading University Students’ Union. It will support the University’s ambitions to improve its position as a civic institution.

The scheme also fits in with the new 2020-2026 Strategic Plan set out by the University last year, highlighting the principles of an engaged university, working with local partners and communities to play a positive role in the world around us.

If the pilot is successful, this scheme will be offered regularly, focusing on a new topic each time. Topics for discussion could include how the University works in the local community to improve sustainability, wellbeing, diversity and inclusion. More information, and details on how to sign up, can be found here.