Mission - alignment with other priorities
Newcastle's approach to aligning engagement with other priorities
‘Our engagement activities, while carried out in the sense of good citizenship, are firmly and specifically based on our academic expertise and experience. In consequence, all our academic units are expected to build up an engagement portfolio based on their research and teaching activities. Likewise, student and alumni activities form an important part of our institutional engagement profile’. University of Newcastle ‘Vision 2021’
As Newcastle researched and developed their strategy it became increasingly apparent that public engagement needed to be framed not as an end in itself, but as a way of enhancing the quality and impact of the institution’s core activities: research, teaching and learning, student experience and civic responsibility. The final articulation of the strategy in their refreshed Vision 2021 reflected this holistic approach:
- It integrated public, community and business engagement in one strategy;
- Although strongly regional in focus, the engagement activity was seen to extend to national and global influence;
- The involvement of all disciplines was invoked under the two pillars of ‘cultural’ and ‘scientific’ engagement;
- Engagement was firmly positioned as an academic activity integrated into teaching and learning, rather than as a ‘third strand’;
As a result of this integrated view of engagement, the strategy presupposed that its implementation would be achieved through its alignment with the normal, ongoing work of all parts of the University, rather than via a separately identified delivery mechanism. For example, the rich range of student engagement activity that was already delivered academic units, by relevant professional services and the Union Society, would not be duplicated in any way.
The ‘gap’ to be filled was to ensure there was some means of knowing what was actually being done, promoting best practices, and effectively communicating this to the wider world. Some coordination across the corporate levels from Schools to the University as a whole was therefore deemed necessary, with the following recommendations being made:
As a matter of policy, every Faculty, Academic Unit and Professional Support Service Unit must develop and implement its own engagement strategy as part of its strategic plan. Many units have already done so. While it is not expected that all individual members of staff will have engagement duties, all Units must allow for inclusion of engagement activities in the workload models of staff for whom engagement work is appropriate, and support this commitment through PDR processes.
In several Units, the responsibility of ‘engagement coordinator’ (or similar) has already been assigned to an individual member of staff, typically someone with a strong track record in some aspect of engagement. Some Units with particularly large engagement commitments have appointed full-time managers to such a position. The level of provision appropriate for each particular Unit is clearly a matter for the Head of Unit to resolve; however, the principle that a named individual be responsible for collating and transmitting information on engagement activities is recommended for all Units.
The goal of aligning engagement with the existing priorities and practices of the university has already borne fruit. Examples include:
- Ongoing innovation in the embedding of engagement into the curriculum and student experience, for instance in the ncl+ graduate skills programme;
- The development of a ‘coherent campus’ strategy to make the campus and buildings, such as the library, more welcoming and accessible to the public;
- Finalising a major re-development of their museum in partnership with Newcastle City Council, the Natural History Society of Northumbria and the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne;
- Implementing strategic partnership initiatives to address global challenges, for instance through working with regional fora like the ‘Northern Rural Network’.
‘Your priority has to be to get buy in to the process. That’s why it took us a year from start to finish. If you don’t, people won’t be interested. Because we gave it time, we’ve now got lots of ownership, and references to the engagement strategy are popping up all over the place,’ Paul Younger.
Find out more about how other universities and beacon partnerships have gone about developing their engagement strategies in the Stories of Change section
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