School-University Partnerships Initiative

Supporting the development of effective partnerships between schools and universities.

How can teachers and university researchers work together to bring cutting-edge research into the classroom? Research Councils UK (RCUK) are committed to engaging young people with research and wanted to find effective ways to do this in a sustained way. In 2013 they initiated the Schools-University Partnerships Initiative (SUPI).

Following a competitive awards process 12 partnership projects, involving universities working with local schools, were tasked with developing long-term school-university partnerships that made a difference to school students, teachers, researchers, and research. Over four years the programme benefited from £2.4 million RCUK funding and this investment was matched by actual and in-kind contributions from the universities and schools involved.

Whist each SUPI developed a bespoke approach, sensitive to contextual factors, they shared four key aims:

  • to inspire the next generation by bringing research into formal and informal learning contexts;
  • to reach secondary school students from a diversity of backgrounds and abilities;
  • to provide researchers with opportunities and training to engage with secondary school students;
  • to support secondary schools and higher education institutes to work together to create structured, strategic, sustainable and equitable mechanisms for school-university engagement.

The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) was appointed to co-ordinate the SUPI network, providing support for the projects and drawing together learning from across the programme.

Check out the film of our 2014 SUPI Gathering for further insights to the initiative.

SUPI projects

The 12 SUPI projects were as follows:

  • SusNet: Aberystwyth University
  • Schools Partnerships Initiative: University of Bristol
  • Cardiff University Schools Partnership (CUSP): Cardiff University
  • Empowering Partnerships: Enabling Engagement, University of Exeter
  • School:University Partnerships for Research: University of East Anglia
  • Reaching Further: Imperial College London
  • Inspiring the Next Generation of UK Researchers: Lancaster University
  • School-University Partnership Initiative: The University of Manchester
  • Engaging Opportunities: Connecting Young People with Contemporary Research and Researchers: The Open University/Denbigh Teaching School Alliance (OU/DTSA)
  • Inspiring Lives, Creating Futures: Queen’s University, Belfast
  • Talk to US! University of Southampton
  • MUSE: Models of University and School Engagement: University of Strathclyde 

SUPI resources and lessons

The 12 SUPI projects created a range of inspiring case studies and rich resources over the course of the four year initiative. Explore the resources here.

The NCCPE has also worked with the SUPI teams to create two key resources:

Perspectives on Partnership Tool

Created by the NCCPE in consultation with the SUPI projects (including researchers, teachers, students, and university staff) this resource is a great planning and talking tool to help develop effective partnerships. Presented as a set of cards, you can request a copy of this resource by emailing (one per person, limited time only).

Alternatively you can download and print the Perspectives on Partnership (PoP) Tool yourself. Simply download the following three documents, print them out (print on both sides of paper, flip on short edge), and then cut or fold as indicated.

Lessons from the RCUK-funded School-University Partnerships Initiative

This booklet distils the key lessons from the project for each of the four aims, and we hope it will enable universities and schools to initiate, enhance and develop their approach to long-term school-university partnerships. You can request a copy of this booklet by emailing (limited time only).