The Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) concept is an innovative student education programme which is currently being explored at Bath.
Since 2019/20, the University of Bath have been developing Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs), which are innovative research and applied learning projects that enable inter-disciplinary, multi-level teams of students to work with a member of academic staff on long-term real-world projects.
VIPs are an attempt to create sustainable, research-engaged communities of staff and students - both undergraduate and postgraduate - who work collaboratively on live projects. Students come from a range disciplines or fields and from across year groups, enabling more experienced students to support other student team members, and allowing everyone involved to work closely with researchers or senior staff. The VIP concept was created by Professor Ed Coyle at Georgia Tech, but has since extended to around 70 HE institutions all over the world.
The University of Bath is the first University in England to develop VIPs.
At Bath, the VIPs are currently operating outside of the curriculum, enabling students across all disciplines and year groups, including postgraduate and doctoral students, to work together on global challenges often with a local focus. Discussions will be held within the context of the Bath Blend and Curriculum Transformation around whether VIPs could operate within the curriculum as optional units, which is the traditional structure for VIPs at other HE institutions.
In 2020/21, nine VIPs are currently running, led by 12 academic members of staff working alongside 150 students.
This VIP aims to create a better understanding of the social and economic inequalities that blight the City of Bath. The VIP team will work with local stakeholders, including Bath City Football Club, to explore interventions that can build communities, inspire learners, develop opportunities and engage students in volunteering and enterprise.
Academic Directors: Dr Haydn Morgan, with Dr Lana Evans
In this VIP, team members will work with staff, peers and local stakeholders to inform the debate and provide solutions for the transport challenges that affect the environment, communities and organisations in the City of Bath. Issues addressed will include pollution, congestion, active commuting, parking and traffic safety.
Academic Director: Dr Ian Walker
Concerns about student wellbeing and mental health continue to dominate national debate. This VIP addresses the issues at the local level, evaluating interventions and stimulating debate over how best to tackle these challenges in the future. Working with experts from the academic and professional realms, the VIP team will have an opportunity to make a difference to policy and practice at the University and beyond.
Academic Director: Professor Richard Joiner
This VIP is linked to an externally funded project, https://www.co-creation-network.org/ which is currently seeking to engage with local communities in Bath in two essential ways. Our first stream seeks to conduct a poetry and visual art-based project at a school located in a disadvantaged area of Bath to replicate an experiment we conducted in Mexico City in 2019 as part of a comparative study. The second stream seeks to develop new research and community engagement activities about Bath’s and Bristol’s slavery legacy to establish new ways of engaging with history and memory through visual art, performance and walking-with practice. External collaborators of this stream include Bath-based museums and Bath Spa-based artist-researcher Dr Richard White who has been developing a zoom-walk on this topic. Possible outputs in 20-21 could include art workshops, an academic paper and/or an edited book about Bath’s slavery legacy and/or a short film. To find out more about the Co-Creation method and the Cohesive Cities project:
Academic Director: Dr Christina Horvath, with Dr Andres Sandoval, Dr Irene Macias, in collaboration with PhD candidates Ben van Praag, Eliana Osorio Saez and Vandana Singh
In this VIP, team members will work with staff, peers and local stakeholders to inform the debate and provide solutions
Heating forms a large part of our energy use and GHG emissions (cooling will feature increasingly). Changing how we heat buildings is challenging as existing infrastructure and convenience makes the incumbent technology and difficult to change. In Bath we have the additional issues associated with historic buildings and the need to preserve these, whilst providing liveable home standards. Critical issues and reason for change in the Bath and North East Somerset area include:
- 65,000 homes need to be retrofitted by 2030
- 66% of the area’s GHG emissions are related to buildings (much of this in heating) (https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/siteimages/climate_and_nature_emergency_action_plan.pdf)·
One of the priorities for the local authority is energy efficiency improvement of the majority of existing buildings (domestic and non-domestic) and zero carbon new build. The University and the Local Authority are looking to work more closely together to solve some of the biggest GHG issues facing the area. Changing the way we heat our buildings cannot be solved by one discipline alone. We need to understand the building physics, the economics, the embodied and lifetime greenhouse gas emissions, user behaviour and how to finance change. We can only do that if we have interdisciplinary teams working on this. This VIP will pull together students and staff across campus to work to identify the key challenges and how to solve them.
Academic Director: Prof Marcelle McManus (Professor of Energy and Environmental Engineering, Co-Director, Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies, Department of Mechanical Engineering)
This VIP project will explore the role of behaviour change within the context of the University’s Climate Action Framework, agreed earlier this year. Set out within the eleven Climate Action Framework principles are a commitment to carbon neutrality in company vehicle emissions, heating, and electricity by 2030 and halving emissions from purchased goods and services, waste, and employee commuting by the same date.
This VIP project will focus on how we get to net zero by 2030 in our University operations, including staff and students’ travel, energy use and shopping on campus. We will also look at technical issues relating to energy use and a transition to electrical heating and cooling systems, but still linked to behaviour change. For example, how would people respond to different potential solutions?
Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh (Director - Centre for Climate Change & Social Transformations (CAST) and Dept of Psychology)
Prof Pete Walker (Dept of Architecture and Civil Engineering)
This VIP project will examine and critique the environmental impact of a major naval facility and dockyard within the UK. The team will work with major agencies to create and evaluate interventions that enhance the ways in which the facility engages with its locale, region and the wider world.
Academic Director: Brian Rutter (Department of Mechanical Engineering)
The Bath and North East Somerset Council are developing an action strategy on Food Poverty (people’s ability to access and afford nutritious and adequate food) as well as a Climate Emergency strategy (which likewise concerns food; e.g., in terms of consumption and wastage). In the initial year, this VIP project involves research focussed on the issues and what we can change at the University of Bath. For instance, are there sections of our community experiencing food poverty? Is there wastage of food on campus? What are the solutions to these problems? We will use the community-based participatory research (CBPR) model which means you will learn how to work with partners (e.g., B&NES council; charities; University decision-makers; staff and students) in the development, design, conduct, analysis, and dissemination of the research. You will learn quantitative or qualitative research skills (e.g., ethnography, survey, interview design and analysis) depending on the research question, as well as skills in communicating research with different audiences.
Academic Director: Dr Leda Blackwood
Benefits of Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs)
VIPs offer students an opportunity to:
- Make a difference or make an impact
- Demonstrate their enthusiasm for your subject and its application
- Develop skills prioritised by employers, e.g., collaboration, negotiation and creativity
- Develop ideas for a project and improve research skills
- Innovate and use their imagination to create change
How to get involved
We are seeking to develop more VIPs to meet growing student demand. Please do get in touch if you would like to find out about what’s involved and how you can participate in the initiative.
Please contact Sue Watts or Jo Hatt at email@example.com for more information.
All staff are invited to attend our VIP Information Session for Staff - 21 April, 2021.
You may also find it useful to watch our latest VIP Student Presentations (2nd February 2021) to find out more about the existing projects and their progress.
Undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral students from across all courses can apply to participate in a Vertically Integrated Project.
The 2021-22 VIPs will be advertised from June 2021. Details and application deadline will be posted here and via email.
Please note: priority will be given to those students not undertaking a placement year, as a means of providing other students with applied learning experiences and professional skills.
Take a look at our student blogs to find out about students’ experiences on the VIPs.
There may be the opportunity for external organisations to contribute to existing or new VIPs. Please contact Emily Richards if you would like to find out more.