This blog is where you will find community council information, including meeting times, minutes and agenda. Do please comment on postings.

Thursday, 12 July 2007



The focus group was attended by the following representatives of the Marchmont/Sciennes Community Council:

Hugh Leather; Sarah Sandow; David Rintoul; John Simon; Susannah Lacey.

The group was facilitated by Robert Tomlinson of the University’s Communications & Marketing department.


To begin proceedings, community representatives attending the group filled out a brief questionnaire in which they were asked ten questions relating to their impressions and opinions of the University, its reputation and the way it relates to the wider Edinburgh community. A discussion lasting some two hours was then commenced, based around some of the responses to key questions.

Initially, people were asked to share their responses to questions such as:

“What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the University?”

This elicited responses such as:

“Fun”; “Drunken students brawling in the streets”; “The rape of George Square”; “Academic achievement”; “Students.”

Focus group members were also asked to share their responses to the question which asked for people’s impressions of the University.

This elicited responses such as:

“Positive”; “Advantageous for economy but not necessarily for the community”; “A monolithic structure”; “High academic standing, good on public health”; “Unpleasant modern architecture.”

Focus group members were then asked to share their responses to the question which asked what kind of reputation they thought the University had with the people of Edinburgh.

This elicited responses such as:

“Mixed”; “Good”; “Good – but driven too much by science”; “Varies from pride in its international reputation to complete indifference”; “Indifference in far-flung parts of the community.”

The discussion was then broadened out to focus on the University’s approach to community relations generally and how successful or otherwise it had been in its interaction with the wider city.

The image and role of students within the community and how that can affect the University’s reputation was identified as a major community relations issue for the institution’s authorities. Focus group members were concerned that the “central” University authorities did not pay enough attention to how student behaviour can shape community attitudes. It was felt that the University should provide greater guidance for students about their role within the community and what constitutes acceptable standards of behaviour - particularly when students move out of halls of residence and into private properties within the city.

It was also felt that the University needs to encourage staff and students to participate more widely in the life of the wider Edinburgh community by engaging with and becoming members of community groups. This could take the form of presentations/talks regarding the University’s research work and the extent to which it is benefiting the wider community (i.e. medical breakthroughs and scientific discoveries for which the University is responsible.) The way in which the University communicates and markets its work and facilities could be widened out, it was felt, with a greater cross-section of Edinburgh society being included in news updates as well as being given opportunities to feed back their views to the University.


Once the discussion had ended, the group decided on three key issues that the University needs to bear in mind if it wishes to maintain and improve strong community relations. Here they are in order of priority:

  1. Students in the community and their effect on the University’s reputation. Students need to be issued with comprehensive guidelines about their behaviour/neighbourliness etc. There should be a system of placing older student wardens/mentors in shared accommodation.

  1. The university needs to be more open about the internal structures/running/funding of the University – proactive engagement with community groups would help this.

  1. The University should create a space on its main website for use by the local Edinburgh community. This would provide an opportunity to promote events and issue news updates as well as affording an opportunity for forums, debate and comment about University-related issues. Current university news publications (such as Bulletin) should be emailed to local community groups and a new newsletter should be created for an external community audience.

What happens now?

The views and information gathered as a result of this focus group will be collated along with the results of other market research activity which the University is undertaking to inform its community relations strategy (this includes a number of other focus groups, as well as one-to-one and group questionnaires/surveys). Key themes emerging from the research will then be included in the strategy to ensure that good community relations are maintained and improved.

Rob Tomlinson

Head of Media & Communications

The University of Edinburgh


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