University of Manchester wins Platinum Engage Watermark for excellence in public engagement

The University has been awarded a Platinum Watermark for the effectiveness of the ways in which it works to engage society with its activities in research, teaching and culture.

Winning a Platinum Engage Watermark is the highest honour that can be awarded to an institution and recognises ‘exceptional strategic leadership of public engagement; high standards of professional support; and excellence in partnership working’.

Awarded by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), the Engage Watermark is a charter mark for universities that assesses their support for public engagement across all aspects of their work. The Watermark was announced at the NCCPE Engage Conference on 6 December.

The award followed a rigorous assessment involving staff from across the campus, and partner organisations working with them. It recognises the strategic support for public engagement across the University, as well as plans to develop this work in the future.

At Manchester, this includes a whole host of public facing events, such as the annual Community Festival, which welcomes our local friends and neighbours on to campus to discover the variety of work we do; bluedot, a science and music festival at the world-famous UNESCO world heritage site Jodrell Bank; and Great Science Share for Schools, an international campaign spotlighting children’s scientific questions.

Our staff and students also actively involve the public in our research and teaching: including Voices of Our National Health Service, a participative research programme on the history of the NHS; through service learning bringing together community involvement, academic study and practical experience; and by involving local citizens in decision making through a Civic Panel to shape priorities as part of our Greater Manchester Civic University Agreement.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester said: “As a passionate advocate for public engagement, I’m proud that we have embedded a culture of high-quality practice through our core goal of social responsibility. We are delighted to be recognised nationally with a prestigious Platinum Watermark for our sustained excellence and leadership in public engagement.”

Cllr Bev Craig said: “As the leader of Manchester City Council and lead for Greater Manchester Combined Authority for Economy and Inclusive Growth, I am proud that we have The University of Manchester as a civic partner. This award is great recognition for the University’s collaborative work with local communities, councils, business and civic partners to address to address real priorities and realise mutual benefit through the GM Civic University Agreement.”

Dr Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility at The University of Manchester said: “We’ve prioritised new forms of public engagement through our emphasis on civic partnerships, our cultural institutions and in creating a local Citizens’ Panel. We’re grateful for the support and constructive challenge throughout the Watermark process and the commitment our staff, students and community partners play in delivering our core goal of social responsibility. Though a huge team effort, I give special thanks to the colleagues who led this year long activity – Professor Sheena Cruickshank, Academic Lead for Public Engagement with Research, Professor Jen O’Brien, Academic Lead for Sustainability Teaching and Learning, Mags Bradbury, Head of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, and Dee-Ann Johnson, Public Engagement Manager. “

Sophie Duncan, Co-director of the NCCPE said: “At the NCCPE, as well as challenging the sector and campaigning for change, we champion excellent practice. We’re delighted to be able to award The University of Manchester a Platinum Engage Watermark for their sustained and deep-rooted commitment to public engagement, which has been informed by consultation with staff, students and partners”.

Key features of Manchester’s approach to public engagement, which drew special praise from the assessors included our efforts to open up the campus and cultural institutions to become more welcoming and accessible for community use, the involvement of partners and communities in shaping the research and teaching at the University, and the very significant commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.

See examples of our local, national and international public engagement work

Watch: Our approach to public engagement at Manchester