• Phil Packer

UNIVERSITIES VITAL TO NATION’S HEALTH AND WELLBEING RECOVERY SAYS DAME KATHERINE GRAINGER

It is great to see that Universities UK (UUK) and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) launched the Made at Uni: Energising Places campaign this week to highlight the role universities play in improving lives through sport and physical activity, following concerns over the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the nation’s activity levels.

Dame Katherine Grainger, The University of Glasgow Chancellor and one of the UK’s most decorated Olympians, is backing the campaign. Dame Katherine believes UK universities are vital to the country’s post-pandemic health and wellbeing recovery, with communities across the UK benefitting from their innovative research and access to their sports facilities.


The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) delivered the BRIT 2020 Row Britannia Challenge in 2019/20 and the BRIT 2021 Challenge this year. Almost 180 universities and colleges have taken on the annual BRIT Challenge over the past two years and the success of this annual inclusive feelgood fundraiser could not have been made possible without the support of Universities UK and every university and college student, and staff member, who took part.


I have seen first-hand, the extraordinary efforts of UK universities and colleges to engage their communities and encourage students and staff of all abilities to take part in activities to support mental health, fitness and wellbeing.


Many UK universities who took on the annual BRIT Challenge work closely with their local Further Education colleges and invite them to use their sports facilities; this is so important for colleges that do not have their own.


Dame Katherine, who also championed the annual BRIT Challenge, said:


“Many people know that universities develop some of our greatest Olympians and Paralympians, but there is an untold story about their work in local communities that improves peoples’ lives through sport and physical activity. The pandemic has disrupted all areas of life, and our physical and mental wellbeing has suffered a great deal. The role universities play in bringing communities together to get fitter, healthier and happier will be more important than ever in the months and years ahead as we emerge and recover from Covid-19.”


In addition to the support from Dame Katherine, since the launch of the BRIT 2021 Challenge in January 2021, over 140 Olympians, Paralympians, Sports Personalities, Adventurers and Explorers have joined our BRIT Ambassador family to champion the annual BRIT Challenge in order to support and improve young adult mental health and fitness throughout the UK.


This year, 85 university and college teams took part in the BRIT 2021 Challenge that was designed to be fully inclusive and enabled participation on campus or at home. It was tremendous to see how universities and colleges encouraged participation by engaging the whole university, their Students’ Union and their community to take part.

The BRIT Vision is to deliver the annual BRIT Challenge as a February feelgood fundraiser and invite every UK university and college to enter teams and take part. Our aspiration is that the annual BRIT Challenge becomes a firm fixture in every university, college and Students’ Union Forecast of Events. Our aim is to support and improve the mental health and fitness of every young adult, student, and staff member, throughout the UK. BRIT has been overwhelmed with support from UK universities and colleges to deliver an annual BRIT Challenge; this is clear evidence of how universities are playing a vital role in improving lives through physical activity. I also believe it shows their commitment to support the mental health and wellbeing of their students and staff.


Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, President, Universities UK, who has also championed the annual BRIT Challenge over the past three years, added:

“For years universities have been improving the nation’s health and wellbeing through their science, research and community-led projects, including public use of sports facilities. Prior to the pandemic over 80% of university sports facilities were being used by local grassroots clubs, and we want to make it clear to government that universities can help resolve the pandemic’s impact on physical activity levels by filling gaps left by the closure of traditional leisure facilities.”

Vince Mayne, Chief Executive, BUCS, said:

“Whilst in the last year we may have lost sports competition, we have gained compassion and kindness – all of which are exemplified through students’ significant efforts to support local charities and organisations. They have played a huge part in helping communities across the country recover from the pandemic, and this really highlights how sport is a fantastic tool to bring students together to engage with local communities, volunteering thousands of hours of their time every year."


Tens of thousands of university and college students throughout the UK have been participating in the annual BRIT Challenge and they have also been fundraising for our charity partners. The impact of COVID-19 on fundraising has been devastating and it has been increasingly challenging over the past year when students and staff have been studying or working from home. Universities, colleges, Students’ Unions; students and staff have played an integral role in supporting BRIT and I am sincerely grateful to everyone who has embraced our annual BRIT Challenges throughout the pandemic.


I believe that there is huge potential for the BRIT Challenge to be embraced by even more universities and colleges next year in order to support and improve young adult mental health and fitness. With the support of so many UK universities and colleges, and knowing how committed they are to improving lives, BRIT are now working with universities to host and coordinate BRIT Regional Steering Groups. Students and staff from every university and college in each region of England, and Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be invited to join these BRIT Regional Steering Groups and unite in order to steer and guide BRIT. This will enable BRIT to encourage every university and college to take part in our annual BRIT Challenge and engage as many students and staff of all abilities as possible.


The MadeAtUni Energising Places campaign is taking place between 12–16 July and includes the Club Charity Initiative Award at the annual BUCS Awards, which celebrate the positive effect of student sport and students who participate in the wider sporting sector in the UK. To find out more about the MadeAtUni Energising Places campaign visit www.madeatuni.org or follow @MadeAtUni on social media.

Thank you to every UK university, college and Students’ Union who has supported the annual BRIT Challenge in order to help BRIT improve the mental health and fitness of young adults, students and staff.


Phil


Phil Packer

Founder and Non-Paid Chief Executive

The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT)