Students bring energy and help us discover Sheffield's forgotten history
It is almost the start of a new academic year and, in just a few weeks, thousands of students will arrive in our city for the very first time. Some will have travelled across the country, others across the globe - and for the next few years, this fantastic city will be their home.
Sheffield is an extraordinary place to live and study and I have no doubt that our students will have the most incredible time experiencing the many wonderful things this city has to offer. They will go out and eat and drink in restaurants and bars.
They will support and shop at local businesses.
They will bring a real energy and vibrancy to our city. But I also know they will want to play an active role in the life of Sheffield and make a positive impact in their community.
We’re incredibly proud that last year more than 2,000 home and international students from our University dedicated their time to causes and organisations across Sheffield.
Our University and Students’ Union provide opportunities through Sheffield Volunteering to give back to the city and make a real difference.
From running homework clubs for local school children and assisting at mental health charities to preparing and serving meals to the homeless, our students are not just contributing to these organisations - they are vital to ensuring that many of them are able to operate at all.
At the Sunday Centre, a not-for-profit organisation which has been helping Sheffield’s homeless population for 25 years, students make up half of their volunteers.
They bring a passion for helping others and provide vital language skills to communicate with those whose first language is not English.
Another charity which benefits from student volunteers is Whirlow Hall Farm, who say the support of student volunteers means they are able to raise the vital funds needed to continue their work with disadvantaged children and young adults.
These students give their time voluntarily and their willingness to help others and get involved in the community is truly inspirational.
Our students also make an impact on our city in many different ways through their academic studies.
Our Social Accountability initiative gives medical students the opportunity to volunteer in local communities across the South Yorkshire region - giving support and working with people who need their help the most.
Since 2015, 893 students have been placed in 154 organisations - including Heeley City Farm, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Our law students run a free legal advice clinic for members of the public, overseen by qualified solicitors, covering areas including contractual disputes, housing and employment.
And students also help us to better understand our city’s history. Earlier this year, students from our Department of Archaeology uncovered the forgotten history of Lodge Moor, once Britain’s largest prisoner of war camp – a site that held the most fanatical of prisoners.
The remains of the camp, which were hidden in the Yorkshire countryside for more than 60 years, were brought to life for the first time by researchers and students from the University and Sheffield Lakeland Landscape Partnership.
These are just a few examples.
Students are central to our ethos of being a civic university for the 21st century and we will continue to do everything we can to provide opportunities for them to support causes across the city.
We know that sometimes issues do arise and we always do our best to act quickly to address any problems.
We work hard to encourage our students to be good neighbours and make a positive impact on the communities they live in. Some of our students take part in litter-picks in their neighbourhoods and, through our Donate, Don’t Waste Scheme - which we run with Sheffield Hallam and Sheffield Council - students have raised more than half a million pounds for the British Heart Foundation since 2013 through the donation of reusable items when they move out.
When our students finish their studies in Sheffield, they become global ambassadors for our city.
They feel proud of the education and friendships they made here and Sheffield is a place that always feels like home to them.
I know you will join me in welcoming both new and returning students to Sheffield - and I’m sure that, just as our city will make a lasting impact on them, they will make a huge and positive impact on Sheffield.