Educational institutions play a huge role in our development as individuals. Directly, in terms of what we learn in lessons, but also in terms of the environment in which we learn. A school, college or university can give us the confidence to be ourselves, they can be the heart of communities, and they can lead efforts to improve society. Taking inspiration from some of the outreach programs undertaken by Oxford Business College (OBC), here are a few ways in which educational institutions can make a difference.
1) Celebrate diversity
Educational institutions can feature some of the most inclusive, tolerant and diverse communities. Students come from all backgrounds, and the experience of the learning environment should welcome that diversity. Oxford Business College recently interviewed current and former LGBTQ+ students to listen to their coming out stories. Actions like this help to create safe spaces, where discussion is welcomed, and acceptance is encouraged. All students have a story to tell, and sharing them is an important way of instigating change in wider society.
2) Championing the local community
Often, educational institutions are geographically rooted, and become key components of their local communities. Oxford Business College, for example, was established in 1985, so has developed an important connection with Oxford. The College interviews local people to find out how the city is developing, and publishes videos to raise awareness of what living in the city is like. By championing the town or city in which an institution is based, organisations can build fruitful relationships by supporting local projects, getting to know local people and understanding local issues.
3) Supporting local business
When economies are functioning well, everyone benefits. Local communities are no different. Studies have found that when towns have a thriving business community, unemployment is reduced, incomes are increased, and levels of happiness rise. As a business college, OBC has a natural connection with local businesses. Through interviews and videos, the college interacts with and supports local businesses to understand how they operate and their experiences – particularly important in turbulent times like 2020. By helping local businesses, educational institutions can support the growth and stability of local economies.
4) Supporting charity
Many institutions like OBC support charities, and philanthropy has always been a key part of academia, but it’s always worth reiterating just why this is such an important function. Schools, colleges and universities are communities in themselves, and so many of those who study and work at these institutions will themselves be affected, directly or indirectly, by many of the issues that charities seek to raise awareness of and funds for. Through fundraising, outreach and awareness, educational establishments are well placed to help charities, and by extension, society as a whole.
Ultimately, institutions make a difference by offering a welcoming, open environment where students and staff can come together, learn together, gain knowledge, and develop the skills to go out into the world and make further differences. In some ways, educational institutions foster difference makers as well as make a difference themselves, which highlights why their role on a local and national scale is so crucial.