What is public engagement?
Public engagement describes the many ways in which universities and research institutions, and their staff and students connect and share their work with the public, from developing research ideas collaboratively to sharing the outcomes with as many different people as possible.
Done well, it generates mutual benefit, with all parties learning from each other through sharing knowledge, expertise and skills. In the process, it can build trust, understanding and collaboration, and increase the sectorís relevance to, and impact on society.
Why does public engagement matter?
At Manchester our core goal of social responsibility ensures we are fully committed to encouraging, supporting and rewarding public engagement.
Listen to Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, talk about the importance of public engagement for the university, its staff and students and wider communities.
How do we do public engagement at Manchester?
Our commitment to public engagement is supported by Goal 3 Social Responsibility in the Manchester Strategic Vision 2020 and is embedded in our research and teaching practices.
From interactive events and exhibitions, to lifelong learning programmes, and student volunteering activities, our aim is to lead on public engagement in all forms, providing expertise in public discourse and policy development, listening to the wider community, and involving the public in our work.
As an engaged university our public engagement activity is guided by the three purposes described by the National Centre for Co-ordinating Public Engagement (NCCPE) as
Informing: Inspiring, informing and educating the public, and making the work of Higher Education more accessible (such as talks, taking part in festivals, media work, exhibitions)
Consulting: Actively listening the publicís views, concern and insights (such as public meetings, panels and user groups, online consultation)
- Collaborating: Working in partnership with the public to solve problems together, drawing on each otherís expertise (such as collaborative research projects, community involvement in delivery of teaching courses)
How do we support public engagement at Manchester?
Dr Sheena Cruickshank, Academic Lead for Public Engagement with Research
My role has evolved from the legacy of the ‘Beacons for Public Engagement’ initiative of which the University was part from 2008-2012. Funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils, Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust, the aim of the initiative was to inspire culture change in how universities engage with the public.
The Beacon may have dissolved but the legacy of public engagement (PE) initiatives continues. PE is increasingly central to the strategic plans of Research Councils, charities such as the Wellcome Trust and HEFCE. HEFCE, for example, conducts an annual survey of the interactions of Higher Education institutions with business and communities. All major funding bodies support PE initiatives and there are new drivers to embed PE such as "Pathways to Impact" and REF impact cases which seek to qualify the added value of universities and research to the public and key stakeholders. Furthermore, PE has continued to evolve and has become a research subject in and of itself.
The role as Academic Lead for Public Engagement is part-time and the overall goal is to start to oversee the development and implementation of an institutional framework for public engagement with research in parallel with other key University-wide strategies. A major focus of the role in the first year has been to review current activities across the University and to use this data to advise on opportunities for development and to map our existing strengths and weaknesses for the University’s work in public engagement. In addition to one to one interviews that were conducted across the University and other universities, we asked for your help in answering a survey on PE activity. The responses to our survey are presented in this report - From Piecemeal to Purpose: An Initial Review of Public Engagement with Research (pdf). This valuable information will be used as the basis for developing our strategy plan moving forward which we will inform you of in a posting later this year. Whether you are connected with the university or not, we hope that the featured case studies and stories on this website will inspire you to engage.
Whether you are connected with the university or not, we hope that the featured case studies and stories on this website will inspire you to engage.