UCL Beacon for Public Engagement Final Report

This report captures and describes the activities that have taken place under the UCL-led Beacon as part of The Beacons for Public Engagement (BPE) programme.

BPE was an initiative launched in the UK to support public engagement by higher education institutions (HEIs). The initiative was funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Wellcome Trust. It aimed to promote excellence in public engagement and encourage a culture change within UK universities to recognise, reward and support public engagement.

Attitudes to Public Engagement

In May 2008, Freshminds, a London-based market research company, were commissioned to study the landscape for academic-public engagement at UCL. They conducted interviews with senior staff, in order to inform the development of an online questionnaire. 708 staff filled in the questionnaire, which looked at attitudes to engagement work, and tried to understand how much work staff undertook.

It should be noted that staff were asked to report their affiliation to an academic unit through a free-text field. This means that it many cases the ways that they divided themselves did not map exactly to UCL’s formal structure. This report, therefore, mainly refers to ‘departments’ for each subject, rather than specific schools, faculties, departments and institutes.

Evaluation of Public Engagement Funding Mechanisms

Between December 2008 and March 2011 73 public engagement projects were funded by the Public Engagement Unit (PEU) through a range of funding mechanisms.

The PEU have taken a fresh approach to funding public engagement activities and the mechanisms that are used are worth consideration. The PEU often get asked about their approach to funding and this document sets out the model of funding adopted.

Early Career Researchers and Public Engagement

An 8 week Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) funded internship based at the UCL Public Engagement Unit was undertaken between July - September 2009. Working within the UCL Public Engagement Unit, the intern undertook qualitative research to investigate the involvement of Early Career Researchers in public engagement at UCL.

  • Specifically, the report aims to respond to the following questions:
  • Are Early Career Researchers involved in public engagement? If not, why?
  • What are the perceived or encountered barriers to involvement?
  • Do participants have suggestions for promotion of public engagement?
  • How might public engagement fit into a research career?

A sample of 17 semi-structured interviews of Early Career Researchers, drawn from various UCL faculties, revealed a largely positive view of public engagement.

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