Children watching a science demonstration.

About our public engagement

What is public engagement?

The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) defines public engagement as the following:

“Public engagement describes the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public. Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.”

Why does public engagement matter to us?

Manifesto for Public Engagement signatory logoProfessor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor, explains why we have signed the NCCPE Manifesto for Public Engagement, which outlines the principles that support a positive culture of public engagement.

“I believe universities exist for the public good. I am passionately committed to public engagement partly because I feel we are obliged to do this in our role as a publicly funded institution, but, more importantly, because we want to share our passion, research and knowledge. Equally, we gain enormously from these interactions with the public, as it helps us do better and more meaningful research and be better teachers.


“Engagement includes every aspect of a university’s work: our teaching, our research, our wider contribution to society and the national economy, and our research, which aims to solve the world’s most pressing problems. We can only do this effectively if we are talking with and learning from the public.”

How do we do public engagement at Manchester?

Public engagement is how we share ideas and research; inspire discussion, debate and creativity; and involve the public in our work.

Our commitment to public engagement is reflected in our institutional strategy – Our Future (2020-2025) – and is supported by our unique strategic goal of social responsibility, which is in every aspect of our work, teaching, research and wider contribution to society.

We’re recognised locally, nationally and internationally for our collaborative, inclusive and reflective engagement practice, and our purposeful approaches to address societal challenges – listening to and working in partnership with diverse communities.

Gold Engage WatermarkIn 2018, we were awarded a Gold Engage Watermark from the NCCPE, which recognises “exceptional strategic leadership of public engagement, high standards of professional support and excellence in partnership working”.

Our commitment to and support for public engagement has also been recognised through Research England’s Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and the annual Times Higher Education Impact Ranking, which provides global benchmarks across the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Public engagement with purpose

Our aim is to lead on public engagement in all forms, from interactive events and exhibitions, to patient involvement in research, citizen science, festivals, widening participation and policy engagement.

We purposefully engage with diverse audiences and community partners to meet identified needs, and our engagement activities are underpinned by key principles of partnership, collaboration, inclusion and reflection.

As an engaged university, our public engagement activity is guided by the three purposes described by the NCCPE:

  • 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 public’s 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 other’s expertise (such as collaborative research projects, community involvement in delivery of teaching courses)

How do we support public engagement at Manchester?

Professor Sheena CruickshankProfessor Sheena Cruickshank, Academic Lead for Public Engagement with Research

My role evolved from the legacy of the Beacons for Public Engagement initiative, which aimed to inspire culture change in how universities engage with the public. The Beacons may have dissolved, but the importance of public engagement continues across the HEI sector.

Many funders expect researchers to engage with the public – seeing public engagement as a route to impact in research grants and as a demonstration of impact in the Research Excellence Framework (REF). We also demonstrate our public and community engagement impact through the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF).  

As Academic Lead for Public Engagement, I oversee the development, implementation and monitoring of an institutional framework for public engagement in parallel with other key university-wide strategies.

In 2022 we used the NCCPE EDGE tool to map our existing strengths and weaknesses for the University’s work in public engagement and refreshed our Public Engagement Framework (PDF), which sets out our structures and governance, and priorities for supporting high quality engagement.  We are currently undertaking a renewal of our Engage Watermark, which will inform our Public Engagement Action Plan (actions and measure of success) for the Framework.

Additionally, our civic engagement activities reflect how our work is enhanced and inspired by our location in Greater Manchester and the way we improve lives across our city and region. We are also piloting new approaches to partnerships and deliberative listening through our Greater Manchester Universities’ Citizens’ Panel to seek feedback and understand the needs and priorities of local citizens.

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.