Public Engagement at Newcastle University

Newcastle University held an introduction to public engagement session on campus yesterday. Marc Dobson, from the JISC Advance BCE Team and based at Newcastle University, went along to hear about the latest developments.

Kate Hudson, University Engagement Manager facilitated the session, in which she considered public engagement essential in responding to a changing landscape, and to fulfil the institution’s role as a civic university. Newcastle was one of the six beacons for public engagement from 2007-2011 – this resulted in the university developing an engagement strategy and the appointment of an engagement manager.

Prior to becoming a beacon, Kate felt that attitudes to public engagement were a lot different, with HEFCE defining it as ‘specialists interacting with non-specialists’. Over time the balance has changed and the value of the public’s contribution has been increasingly recognised. The university is also looking at more innovative and entertaining ways of involving the public in the activities of the university for mutual benefit. Recent examples include

Street Law: Undergraduates from Newcastle Law School delivering discussion and awareness to groups of children and young people on their rights.

The Great North Build: A recent event at the Great North Museum where the public were challenged to build a town and consider real life planning scenarios.

Swing Bridge Festival: As part of the institution’s volunteering activities in Summer 2011, staff and students worked with local community groups to create a garden on Newcastle’s Swing Bridge.

Bright Club: Researchers are trained to deliver stand up comedy to a paying audience to inform peopple about their research in an educational but humourous way.

Public engagement is seen as key to the success of the institution, and Newcastle are taking measures to support academics, researchers and other staff to become involved in engaging, and making them aware of the opportunities that are available.

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