The public engagement agenda in the UK higher education sector has evolved considerably over the past few years. All the major funding and researcher councils are endorsing an embedded approach, expecting engagement plans more and more to be included, and costed, in research proposals. If you are looking for some guidance on how you might do this take a look at our quick guide.
In parallel with this ethos of embedded public engagement, the major funders have also endorsed some national initiatives. The Beacons for Public Engagement initiative of 2008 was a major step, creating 6 University-led groupings across the UK together with a National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement based at the University of the West of England. The Beacons funding finished in 2011 and was followed by the RCUK Catalysts initiative, focusing on individual Universities as centres of excellence in sharing learning and practice across the sector. This scheme awarded 8 grants across the UK with the University of Aberdeen securing an award alongside Exeter, Bath, Sheffield, Nottingham, University of London (Queen Mary and the Institute of Education) and The Open University.
Example of policy and practice sharing work being undertaken include consultations and briefings to RCUK and the major funders, contributions to the annual engagement conference ENGAGE, active involvement with Vitae across research-training synergies and representation on national projects such as Engaged Futures initiative and the Excellence with Impact framework.