UCL 2034


An accessible, publicly engaged organisation: review of progress

At UCL, we value collaboration, partnership and dialogue with our local community.

Our Public Engagement Unit, within the UCL Culture team, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and, through its pioneering work, we know that the more diverse the voices that we listen to and engage with, the more we will thrive as a university.

We offer our students an education that helps them to become thoughtful, resilient and engaged citizens. With our help, our student volunteers have set up and run numerous community projects – from teaching British politics and democracy to primary school students to attending asylum hearings in support of unaccompanied young Albanians.

Through our continuing outreach work, we will ensure that a UCL education is open to all those who have the talent to study here, irrespective of background.

Simon Cane, Executive Director, UCL Culture

Case study: Widening the vision of health and wellbeing

Professor Chatterjee
A researcher from UCL Biosciences has won a Health Humanities medal for her work on the role of museums and galleries in health and wellbeing.
The prize, from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in association with the Wellcome Trust, is awarded to people and projects that are helping to improve quality of life, health and wellbeing using arts and humanities research – an inclusive vision of health and wellbeing that goes beyond medical research alone.

Professor Helen Chatterjee received the 'Leadership Award', as well as the overall Health Humanities Medal, in recognition of her research into how museums can be beneficial to health.

Professor Chatterjee is a Professor of Biology and Head of Research and Teaching in UCL Culture. She recently led a three-year collaboration project between UCL, Canterbury Christ Church University and seven museums from central London and Kent, looking at how museums can help those who are lonely and at risk of isolation.

Through her work she has formed partnerships with museums, along with health and social care organisations, to better understand the value of museums as community assets capable of supporting public health.

Image: Professor Helen Chatterjee. Image courtesy of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Links: UCL Biosciences / UCL Culture / Arts and Humanities Research Council

Case study: House of Doors

House of Doors
A contemporary sculpture, created by UCL Artist-in-Residence, Kristina Clackson-Bonnington, was chosen by the Palace of Westminster to mark the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave the first women the right to vote in the UK. 

Part of the university’s year-long Vote 100 programme of events and exhibitions marking this centenary, The House of Doors is an artwork that invites audiences to consider how access to public life has changed since 1918. The centrepiece is an imposing sculpture of a cloaked woman facing a stone ‘door’, inspired by a painting by artist Harriet Halhed, and asks viewers to reflect on the spaces and roles that were once closed to women and have since opened up. 

The House of Doors was originally launched in 2015 at UCL, in recognition of our historic commitment to equality and as the first university in England to admit women on the same terms as men. The project has since gone on to tour across the UK. 

Alongside the installation of Clackson-Bonnington’s sculpture in Westminster Hall this year, the artist also presented a new exhibition, Female Firsts, as part of the Vote 100 programme. Twelve portraits on display at UCL celebrated women past and present who worked or studied at the university, from leading Bletchley code-breaker Mavis Batey to the UK’s first female doctor Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.

Image: House of Doors, courtesy of Kristina Clackson-Bonnington

Links: House of Doors

Case study: UCL Evaluation Exchange

Caritas Anchor House
UCL has a commitment to being an open, accessible and publicly engaged university and in light of plans to develop the new UCL East campus the institution is establishing relationships with communities in east London. The UCL Public Engagement Unit has been working in east London for a few years asking organisations: what are your needs and priorities? Voluntary and community sector organisations told us that they needed support to survive and thrive in an increasingly difficult environment. Time and time again we were faced with the question: Can UCL help us to evaluate our work and help us evidence our impact to our funders and stakeholders? 

We know there is power in the concept of evaluation as a two-way learning process that can shape service delivery, improve efficiency and effectiveness, and communicate impact. In 2017, we launched Evaluation Exchange, a partnership between Newham-based umbrella organisation Aston-Mansfield and the UCL Public Engagement Unit. The concept was simple: we matched teams of UCL researchers working with six voluntary sector organisations in Newham, east London to tackle an evaluation challenge the organisation was facing, providing training and support to help them improve their evaluation abilities. The aim is to “connect the know-how to the how-to”, giving organisations a chance to build capacity for effective evaluation, and researchers a valuable opportunity to apply and develop research skills in a real world situation while gaining hands-on experience of the voluntary sector. 

The six organisations varied in size and establishment, and included a homeless charity, support for migrants, a charity that supports vulnerable women and a heritage and theatre company. The teams came together for a set 6 months, to draw on the collective skills they already have, but were given additional training and resources in evaluation, so that they could collaboratively create a solution to the evaluation challenge. Positive results suggest the programme has improved evaluation capacity, changed service delivery, and boosted service users’ and organisations’ confidence in their activities. UCL’s researchers in turn gained real-world experience of the practical application of their research and evaluation skills, and a broader sense of the social environment in which London’s Global University operates.

Image: Staff at Caritas Anchor House support residents by providing safe accommodation and access to new opportunities. Image credit: Caritas Anchor House

Links: UCL Public Engagement Unit


Further information

Previous principal theme

Addressing global challenges


Next principal theme

London's Global University