Knowledge Exchange Partnership with Leeds Conservatoire: Iona’s Reflections

Posted on: 15 September 2022

Student Hubs has recently branched out with their One Community Forum format, running a 14 week partnership of activity delivery with Leeds Conservatoire after sharing about our opportunities with GuildHE members. This marks the first time the One Community Forum has been delivered with a non-Hub university, and is part of Student Hubs’ new strategy which involves doing more project-based and discrete work with university partners alongside our traditional Hub model. You can read about our project with the Open University as part of this work here. 

Delivering the Leeds Conservatoire One Community Forum

On Thursday 21st July 2022, Student Hubs held the One Community Forum at Leeds Conservatoire with 17 guests, including 6 representatives from local organisations in Leeds, Leeds Conservatoire staff and students, and Student Hubs staff. 

The One Community Forum is an activity that Student Hubs has delivered since 2017, previously funded by the UPP Foundation with the aim to bring students, community members and university staff together to discuss how student social action to meet the needs of the local community and how the university could work collaboratively with the community through Student Hubs’s support. You can read more about our 2020 virtual One Community Forum here. 

Our One Community Forum with Leeds Conservatoire had the aim of developing their knowledge, research and understanding of the needs of the Leeds community, and how students could actively support local organisations through the means of artistic citizenship as part of their knowledge exchange strategy. The Forum explored these themes further and in relationship to student social action and social issues in the Leeds community. 

Music was a large focus at the One Community Forum, with all of the attendees agreeing that it was a powerful force in providing hope, unity and comfort in the community and for those who are struggling. There was also a need to break down stereotypes and assumptions of art as inaccessible, and conversation about what would be needed from Leeds Conservatoire to do this community engagement effectively. 

Four individuals look at a presenter. The presenter is stood next to a screen reading 'Action Planning Activity' in front of a dark green curtain.

The One Community Forum encouraged many in depth discussions which inspired our next steps in our work with Leeds Conservatoire. After going through our notes from the One Community Forum we found three key findings which included:

  • Accessibility for community organisations and their clients (both in terms of the barrier of art as inaccessible and in inclusion) 
  • Other barriers to student and community engagement including lack of time, capacity and financial support 
  • Social issues present in the Leeds community impacting both community members and students relating to cost of living crisis, homelessness and mental health

Looking over the feedback we got from the Forum we are pleased to share that from those surveyed:

  • 100% strongly agreed that the One Community Forum was a worthwhile event to attend
  • 100% agreed that the quality of discussions were excellent
  • 66.7% thought it useful and 33.3% thought it very useful in context with their work with university students and the local community. 

On what they enjoyed about the event, attendees said: 

“The opportunity to discuss the relevance of of music in the community with others from varying backgrounds and organisations.”

“Connecting with new people in the community and learning more about Leeds Conservatoire.”

Building community relationships

Along with the delivery of the Forum, I contacted a range of community organisations in Leeds to uncover their perspectives of artistic citizenship in practice, their support needs and understanding of social issues, and learn what support students and Leeds Conservatoire could provide. 

From this engagement we were able to understand the primary gaps for these organisations and start to think about how Leeds Conservatoire could support them. We found capacity was an issue for many of the organisations and ways in which Leeds Conservatoire could support (both with on-campus and off-campus initiatives) were diverse. 

As a result of our partnership, key support we were able to provide includes:

  • Input from five community organisations at the Forum through our 2.5 hour event and 2 hour networking lunch 
  • Research via a consultation form which 6 organisations completed exploring the topics of the Forum
  • Interview research with 6 organisations about the topics of the Forum
  • Confirmation of 4 partners to take part in one-off student consultancy activities during the 2022-23 academic year 
  • A stakeholder map with details and information for 67 organisations in Leeds which Leeds Conservatoire may want to develop or continue engagement with 
  • A recommendations report from Student Hubs with collated research from the Forum, community partners in Leeds, and provided our own recommendations from learnings and our internal expertise 

Reflections, thank you and next steps

Our recommendations as part of our final report were varied, with some suggestions for continuing this strategic work included:

  • Developing one-off student consultancy activities in partnership with the community, allowing these organisations to receive free capacity whilst also supporting their and students’ needs around time and resources;
  • Supporting student leadership and engagement in this strategic area, through the Student Union and other student activities; 
  • Auditing existing opportunities to expand the community reach with Leeds Conservatoire’s activities, such as providing a number of free concert tickets for local organisations; 
  • Considering other opportunities to build in community engagement, including in the curriculum like Student Hubs delivers at Kingston University through Service/Community Engaged Learning.

We thank Leeds Conservatoire, UKRI and the community of students and Leeds based organisations we worked with for enabling us to deliver a great summer of learning, research and events. We are looking forward to supporting Leeds Conservatoire as they continue to develop their knowledge exchange strategy and seeing our recommendations being implemented in the 22-23 academic year. 

If you’d like to learn more about our experience of running our knowledge exchange partnership with Leeds Conservatoire, or more about our new strategy delivering project work with universities, please get in touch with Partnerships and Development Director, Fiona Walsh at You may also want to read about our other summer delivery project, working with the Open University to deliver our Engage for Change programme to Open University students here. 

Iona Gillies with Fiona Walsh

Iona Gillies was a project-based Student Hubs staff member, working in collaboration with Leeds Conservatoire to deliver our knowledge exchange partnership. Fiona Walsh is our Partnership and Development Director at Student Hubs. To learn more about partnering with us, please contact Fiona at

Tags: Higher Education, News, Social Action, Third Sector

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