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Starting a Student Repair Revolution

A map of the UK, with dots indicating locations of university partners and text Student Repair Revolution

Last year, we teamed up with some of our partners in the Community Repair Network to support the establishment of repair initiatives in universities across the UK. Inspired by the vitality and tenacity of student environmental campaigns, we wanted to focus our attention on introducing more young people — who are typically under-represented in our network — to community repair. Our aim for this project is to meet young people in an environment that they already inhabit and curate a project that was specifically tailored to introducing and engaging them with repair. We hope this project will spark a lot of curiosity and excitement towards repair and lead more young people and students to be a bigger component of the community repair ecosystem.

Opportunities from Working in Universities.

Working with and in universities, has offered a unique opportunity for us to engage with students and staff members in an environment centered around learning, building new skills and designing better ways for us to exist in the world. We’ve had the chance to talk to lecturers about incorporating repair material into their syllabus, engage with product design students about the importance of repairability and work with researchers delving into the circular economy. Repair is an essential life skill to learn – and so it makes sense that it should go hand-in-hand with our educational institutions.  

Student Repair Revolution: The Project so Far.

The Student Repair Revolution project is funded by Hubbub and Virgin Media O2’s Time After Time E-waste Fund. Hubbub has also released this interesting report on Gen Z’s electronic purchasing habits and attitudes towards repair, if you want to learn more! 

Over the last nine months, we’ve engaged with students and staff members in over twenty UK universities who are passionate about repair, skillsharing and sustainability. It has allowed us an opportunity to support different types of repair event formats, and see what can work in this new environment.

We have taken inspiration from some of the fantastic pre-existing repair initiatives at the University of the Arts London, University of Leeds and Bangor University. Observing how they operate in slightly different ways with their own unique resources, sustainability governance and funding we decided it would be beneficial to adopt a flexible approach and see it as an opportunity to support each group on a case-by-case basis catering to each group’s own ideas and environment. 

In recent months, it has been fantastic to see repair events held at the University of the Arts London, Bangor University, University of the West of England, University of Strathclyde and as part of Transition University of St. Andrews. We are also working with several other universities in setting up talks on e-waste and repair, workshops, repair cafes and other university repair initiatives in the upcoming months – so keep an eye out for more university repair updates!

Networking & Peer-Support

In February, we hosted a webinar for organisers on creating a repair initiative that worked for them, and exploring ways to plan repair initiatives based on venue, audience and atmosphere which led to some really interesting discussions and fruitful exchanges of experience and ideas. We’re hoping to host some more informal meetings in the future for groups to share thoughts, lessons learned and difficulties about working within university institutions.

We have also set up a space on our community platform, Restarters for groups to discuss the project and their experiences organising in a university environment.

The Future of Repair at Universities.

As our project draws to a close in the next few months, we’re hoping that it will have helped bring greater awareness to students about the growing issue of e-waste. Something that is particularly timely, as the UK is the second highest producer of e-waste per capita in the world. We hope students will feel empowered to take more ownership of their devices, and that they will be armed with the skills, confidence and knowledge to repair their electronics.

We also hope it will introduce a new perspective to the wider community repair ecosystem, and bring more young people into the world of repair and reuse. Working with universities is really exciting – and we’re thrilled there has been so much interest and demand for repair initiatives in universities. However it also has its own difficulties – with university bureaucracy and insurance being a particularly stubborn nut to crack and a high turnover rate with student bodies changing every few years.

Regardless, it’s an exciting new area  – and we really encourage anyone wanting to set up an initiative in a university to start wherever they can! We have some tools to help navigate that process including this Student Information Pack and please reach out to the project coordinator, Pascale at [email protected] if you have any questions or ideas to share!

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