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23rd April, 2020

Central and Partner Organisations Awarded over £1.4 Million in Joint Funding for Knowledge Exchange Projects

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama - University of London

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, together with partner organisations including the Royal Northern College of Music, University of the Arts London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the My Dementia Improvement Network, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded over £1.4 million in joint funding by the Office for Students and Research England.

The funding will support the development of two bespoke, collaborative projects and is the result of a competition run by the Office for Students and Research England to explore the impact of student engagement in knowledge exchange.  Projects selected were required to demonstrate the potential impact on students and external partners, and to show examples of good practice which could be shared across the higher education sector.

Of the awards Central’s Principal, Professor Gavin Henderson CBE, said:

“We are delighted to have been honoured with this recognition and are grateful to the Office for Students and Research England for their tremendous support.  This funding is critical for Central as we move forward with the important work of Knowledge Exchange which benefits our students, our community and our sector.  This award has also been very timely.  There has never been a more crucial moment than this one to invest in entrepreneurial endeavors, to encourage students to work together, to think about the world in new and unique ways and to build strong connections within our sector and beyond.  And there has never been a more important moment to support the incredible staff and patients of our NHS.“

The first project, led by Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) working alongside Central and University of the Arts London (UAL), was awarded over £900,000 in funding and supports the establishment of the StART Entrepreneurship Scheme.  The Scheme will enrich the entrepreneurial training provided at each institution via new and enhanced tuition and a range of knowledge exchange activities.  These include student workshops run between RNCM, UAL and Central as well as professional placements, mentorships and networking opportunities with partner organisations across the creative sector. The project’s focus is to help students develop the necessary entrepreneurial skills alongside real-world experience to enable them to build more successful and sustainable careers after graduation.

Jessica Bowles, Principal Lecturer and Course Leader of the MA/MFA Creative ProducingCourse at Central, is acting as the institutional lead on the project for Central.  Of the award, she said:

“Embedding entrepreneurial skills into the curriculum and imparting this crucial knowledge to our students as they embark on their professional careers has long been a priority at Central. This generous award will allow us to further expand on this work whilst establishing strong networks and sharing ideas and best practice with our partners at the Royal Northern College of Music and University of the Arts London.  We can’t wait to get started with this important work.”

The second project, Innovating Knowledge Exchange: Student Involvement in Delivering Better patient Experience in the NHS, will be led by Central with support from the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the My Dementia Improvement Network.

Over £560,000 was awarded in order to scale up Central’s current award-winning work with NHS staff at the Imperial College Hospital NHS Trust and to facilitate the improvement of patient experiences in the NHS.  The project provides a multi-intervention approach, further embedding knowledge exchange activities that are currently underway to address social isolation, improve patient wellbeing and staff morale.  Central students working with patients on the project will employ key applied theatre techniques alongside storytelling and social interaction, empathy training, bespoke films and Virtual Reality 360 technologies.

Jo James, Nurse Consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said:

“It’s a ray of sunshine, Imperial have said that too when I called them. They said what a lovely thing to look forward to when things settle down. It’s really tough at the moment for everyone and it’s a really positive thing to look forward to. It’s part of the rebuilding to recover from what’s happened.”

Dr Nicola Abraham, Lecturer at Central in Applied Theatre Practices and institutional lead on the project said:

“I wish I could capture for you the joyful tears of the moment I phoned Jo as she and her brilliant team were working on wards in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis to let her know that our knowledge exchange project was being funded. It’s one of those moments I know I’ll never forget. I don’t think either of us could stop smiling at the delight that we have been given the opportunity to quadruple our projects, to start a funded student led social enterprise to spread our practice to other NHS Trusts and to rebuild joy after this crisis has happened. What a timely and brilliant chance we have been given. I’m hugely grateful to our funders for believing in our project, it is now more urgent than ever to support patients, NHS teams and students through the exchange of knowledge to spread ideas, innovation and hope.”

Both projects are scheduled to commence in Autumn 2020.


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