BCE?…start here…

What is BCE?

Business and Community Engagement (BCE) is a term increasingly being used to describe the relationships between academic institutions and external organisations and individuals.

Why is BCE important to my university or college?

The current and future climate for higher and further education means that external engagement and partnerships with commercial, public sector, cultural, social and civic organisations are going to be increasingly important to the success of both individual institutions and the sector as a whole.

Knowledge exchange, innovation and employer engagement are high on the government’s agenda for economic prosperity and are now becoming major drivers for institutional strategy. Within individual universities and colleges, the strategic management of the processes and relationships this creates will be crucial to future impact and success – BCE must become “business as usual”.

Business as usual?

Isn’t that our third stream/third strand/outreach?

Activity in these areas are often described as forming part of a “third stream” or “third strand”, somehow extra or additional to the normal teaching and/or research business of a university or college. Historical funding models have also contributed to this categorisation (hence the idea of streams and strands). BCE expresses a much more holistic type of engagement taking place both within and beyond the boundaries of academic institutions.

It is increasingly being recognised that the separation of business engagement/development strategy and activity from that of the mainstream will probably not be a sustainable model in the future. Indeed many institutions are now “re-integrating” these areas more closely with their core business processes for delivering learning and teaching and research.

Isn’t that what our “Business Development” people do?


There will always be some specialist roles within BCE, either for those directly involved with the engagement activities or for those enabling or brokering them. Staff in these roles could be referred to as “BCE practitioners” and much of the work in this area to date has been specifically directed towards them.

However, effective support for the integration of engagement activity throughout an institution, will involve (and possibly change) a much wider range of staff roles.

Where do I fit in?

In order for BCE to become “business as usual”, its processes need to be deeply integrated throughout an institution – beyond dedicated units or individuals who may be leading current activities.

For the internal support and enabling services within universities and colleges to actively support a BCE-driven strategy in a consistent way across their operations, a strong grasp of the nature, characteristics and typical activities is essential.

What is the JISC BCE Programme?

Through its BCE programme, JISC aims to enhance institutions’ efficiency, effectiveness and opportunities in BCE activities and improve access to institutions’ knowledge and expertise for business and community organisations.

Changing perceptions about BCE both within institutions and for the communities they work with are key goals for the JISC BCE programme.

How does this project help?

This project specifically considers how BCE-driven strategies could shape and influence the current and future roles of  staff working in internal support and enabling services such as:

  • IT services
  • Library and information management
  • Administration and management
  • Marketing and communications
  • Human resources
  • Procurement and finance

The project events and resources will provide a space to explore:

  • The relationship between the local activities currently taking place in institutions
  • The wider strategic agenda being set within those institutions
  • The external drivers coming from funding agencies and government.
  • Key research and practical support being carried out by JISC through its Business and Community Engagement Programme

It is clear that there is no one-size-for-all model of success and indeed, the individuality of institutions is a key factor in providing a competitive market for the skills, knowledge and value that universities and colleges add to society as a whole. In some cases it may involve changes in strategy (and/or perspective) and in others recognition that a BCE-driven strategy is already being communicated and executed.

Further details about the project background can be found here.

Where can I find out more?

You’ll find the latest updates and information for this project’s audience(s) in the “Resources” section of this blog.

In addition…

The main JISC BCE programme web site is at: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/bce

The programme blog can be found at: https://bce.jiscinvolve.org/

1 thought on “BCE?…start here…

  1. Pingback: #CShock11 – Digital Storytelling « Through the Phases

Comments are closed.