Beacons for Public Engagement
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Beacons for Public Engagement

The UCL Public Engagement Unit was created in 2008 as one of six in the United Kingdom to be funded by the beacons for public engagement programme set up by HEFCE, Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust.

Beacons funding was intended to help the staff of UCL:

  • To work with audiences that UCL has not traditionally talked or listened to, including socially excluded groups.
  • To better connect UCL with London, through work with local communities and creative organisations in the local area.
  • To find new models and opportunities for dialogue between academic and non-academic groups in all of UCL's subjects.
  • To increase the amount and quality of public engagement work undertaken at UCL.

This report captures and describes the activities that have taken place under the UCL-led Beacon as part of the BPE programme. 

The Public Engagement Unit (PEU) was established within UCL to support staff and students to involve members of the public in their work. 

Achievements from May 2008 to December 2011

  • 91 public engagement projects have been funded through various grants
  • One Beacon Fellowship has been completed and five public engagement mentors have been appointed
  • A total of 237 partner groups/organisations have been linked to the programme
  • Creation of the Annual UCL Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement
  • Creation of the Annual UCL Public Engagement Symposium
  • Over 37,560 people have attended programme and project activities
  • Over 1600 UCL staff and students and 530 people outside UCL, have taken part in training and mentoring on public engagement
  • £98,136 additional funding has been received from external agencies to support projects facilitated by the PEU
  • Advice and support has been provided on 47 public engagement and research funding applications to external bodies. These have been awarded funding totalling over £10 million
  • 37 Bright Club events have been delivered, and attended by approximately 3,933 people
  • 60 Bright Club podcasts have been created with an average download figure of 1,955 per episode
  • Creation of the Bite-Sized Lunchtime Lecture series featuring 44 speakers over three academic terms
  • Development and approval by the UCL Senior Management Team and UCL Council of a UCL Public Engagement Strategy
  • Public engagement is now included as a requirement in the UCL academic staff promotions criteria

The PEU has had a long term impact in supporting institutional commitment to public engagement. It has been successful in creating an independent structure and model for public engagement, and has addressed many barriers traditionally faced by HEIs undertaking public engagement. The PEU has also driven a culture change at UCL both at a strategic and grassroots level, which has led to a longer term commitment to public engagement through the continuation of the unit. The PEU can now build upon the success that the Beacons for Public Engagement programme has allowed, and focus on a more targeted approach within the Schools and Faculties.

You can find out more about the Beacons for Public Engagement Programme on the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement's website

You can download the final report on Beacons for Public Engagement Programme by going to our resources section.

The Beacons for Public Engagement (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.

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