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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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‌‌HEIs in England will work with student bodies, social enterprise support agencies and private companies to develop innovative cross-sector approaches to supporting social entrepreneurs at a local, regional or national level.

HEFCE and UnLtd are funding a total of 24 partnerships, involving 18 HEIs and 47 other partners. This is the latest phase of an ongoing five-year collaboration which has already led to the creation of 1,500 new social ventures across 100 universities up and down the country.

The new ‘SEE Change’ (Social Entrepreneurship in Education) programme aims to build capacity in the higher education sector to reach and support greater numbers of social entrepreneurs through social leadership, systems development, and knowledge exchange.

The programme has three active strands:

Regional and thematic clusters

Eight collaborations led by universities across geographic regions, or working on the same theme, to increase innovation, knowledge exchange and network development. Universities will collaborate with a wide range of cross-sector organisations to enhance and develop ecosystems of support for social entrepreneurs.

Scale and growth partnerships

Universities will link with social investment experts to develop the skills, capacity, infrastructure and resources needed to support social ventures with the potential to scale up, grow rapidly and, in many cases, exploit commercial models and market opportunities.

Innovation partnerships

Universities will form collaborations focused on developing innovative approaches to enhancing the ecosystem of support for social entrepreneurs. These will take place across sectors at local, regional, national or international level, and could involve student bodies, social enterprise support agencies or private companies.

David Sweeney, Director of Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange, HEFCE said:

‘These programmes are catalysing regional and thematic collaborations across the higher education sector to support social innovation and entrepreneurship, further demonstrating the important anchor role which many universities and colleges play in their communities. They provide a focus for developing capacity within and across institutions, building networks with a wide range of partner organisations, and scaling up activity to meet demand. There is much more to do, but so far HEFCE, UnLtd and the higher education sector have unlocked the potential and are championing tomorrow’s social entrepreneurs with an innovative mix of funding, support, collaborative partnerships, shared learning and network expertise.’

Peter Ptashko, Lead Partnership and Support Manager for UnLtd’s SEE Change programme, said:

‘The 2014-15 SEE Change programme represents the culmination of five years of ground-breaking work developing routes to funding and support for social entrepreneurs in the UK higher education sector.

‘Allying England’s high-quality sector with some of the best and brightest staff, students and recent graduates from across a broad range of partners, UnLtd and HEFCE have led the way by developing compelling offers, environments, tools and resources to help social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs flourish.

‘We hope to take this exciting, world-leading work further in the coming year and establish a cutting-edge culture change across English universities into the future.’

Leading on the formation of the regional and thematic clusters are:

  • University of Portsmouth – Partnering with Highbury College, the Council for Social Responsibility and Cathedral Innovation Centre to develop an ecosystem of social innovation to tackle social problems across Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and the Isle of Wight.
  • University College London – Partnering with King’s College London and London Business School to provide opportunities for academic staff, students and the entrepreneurial and business communities to collaborate, establish start-ups and strengthen social ventures in the field of health and wellbeing.
  • Sheffield Hallam University – Partnering with the University of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union, the Sheffield College and Sero Consulting Ltd to take social enterprise out of the classroom and into the Sheffield community.
  • University of Cumbria – Partnering with Edge Hill University and Manchester Metropolitan University to develop access to support for social entrepreneurs in rural areas of Cumbria, Cheshire and Lancashire.
  • Oxford Brookes University – Partnering with the University of Oxford and Student Hubs to establish a regional hub which will support social entrepreneurs and enterprises across Oxfordshire.
  • University of the West of England – Partnering with the University of Bristol to create a local ecosystem of support for social entrepreneurs in the west of England’s leading institutions and their communities.
  • Teesside University – Partnering with Durham University, the University of Sunderland, Newcastle University and Northumbria University to improve a social enterprise support structure in the North East.
  • Keele University – Partnering with Staffordshire University, Newcastle-under-Lyme College, Stoke-on-Trent College, Business Enterprise Support, Voluntary Action Stoke-on-Trent, the Education Trust, Aspire Housing, Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council to build a collaborative and coordinated approach to social enterprise across Staffordshire.

Kym Billington-Baddley, Enterprise Business Manager for Keele University, said:

‘The thematic geographical cluster, based on strong partnership collaborations, gives much wider access for the growth of social entrepreneurship across the locality.’

Leading on the scale and growth initiative are:

  • Coventry University – in partnership with Coventry and Warwickshire Re-Investment Trust
  • University of Greenwich
  • University of Hertfordshire – in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire, Winweb and Exemplas
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Northampton
  • Oxford Brookes University – in partnership with the University of Oxford and Student Hubs
  • Royal College of Art – in partnership with Imperial College London
  • Teesside University
  • University of the West of England
  • Nottingham Trent University – in partnership with Nottingham City Council
  • Keele University – in partnership with Staffordshire University

Jeff Willmore, Programme Manager for Oxford Brookes University’s Social Entrepreneur Awards programme and Project Manager for the Oxfordshire Social Entrepreneurship Partnership, said:

‘The SEE Change scale and growth and clusters programmes have enabled us to work closely with our partners, the University of Oxford and Student Hubs, to expand and extend the support that we offer potential and existing social entrepreneurs in Oxfordshire. They have made a huge difference to our ability to find, fund and support social entrepreneurs.’

Leading on the innovation partnerships are:

  • Oxford Brookes University – bringing together social entrepreneurship and the fields of travel, tourism and hospitality
  • Teesside University – looking at social entrepreneurship and the creative arts in the Tees Valley
  • University of Sheffield – creating a comprehensive system of support for social entrepreneurs within Sheffield
  • University of the Arts – creating curriculum-based solutions to design-led social entrepreneurship
  • University of Oxford – creating learning exchanges to facilitate the ongoing development of university-based social entrepreneurship programmes.

Karen Race, Deputy Director of Academic Enterprise for Teesside University said:

‘Our project which has secured funding from UnLtd and HEFCE is a partnership between the University and Creative Darlington who will work together to explore how social enterprise principles can be used to ensure the sustainability of arts and creative businesses and to create an ecosystem to provide the necessary support.’