Mission - embedding engagement in your mission
This section tells the story about how one institution – the University of Newcastle – went about developing its mission for public engagement. It also draws on the experiences of other beacons and universities who have tackled this area.
Developing commitment in mission takes a significant amount of time. Newcastle published its first engagement strategy in 2010, but ground work began significantly earlier than this. Key events included
- The arrival of a new Vice-chancellor, Professor Chris Brink, in July 2007, who enthusiastically endorsed the University’s role as a major player in the civic engagement agenda
- A Strategic Review, led by the Vice-chancellor, leading to the development of Vision 2021, which identified Engagement as a core function of the University and set out the University’s strategic objectives, supported by strategic development funds
- The appointment of one of the first Pro‐Vice‐Chancellors for Engagement, Professor Paul Younger, in 2008
- The University’s successful bid in 2008 to lead the Beacon North East project, in collaboration with Durham University and the Centre for Life
Newcastle's approach to embedding engagement in their mission
The arrival of Chris Brink as Newcastle’s new Vice-chancellor in 2007 led to the creation of a new vision and mission for the university. The Vice-chancellor’s personal commitment was a key factor in ensuring a commitment to engagement was embedded there, but there were other factors too:
- Recognition of the University’s long history of successful engagement with civil society on multiple levels, over many years. There was also a belief by the university’s leadership that these ‘civic roots’ had been lost sight of;
- Anticipation of the need to identify, classify and quantify impact of research activity as part of the new Research Excellence Framework (REF) process;
- The Charities Act 2006, which led to a renewed emphasis on charitable bodies such as universities demonstrating the public benefits achieved in pursuit of their stated charitable purposes;
- The University’s status as leader of Beacon North East, which put their engagement activities under a national spotlight.
The resulting Vision and Mission reflected these internal and external drivers:
• Our Vision is of Newcastle as a civic university with a global reputation for academic excellence
• Our Mission: to be a world‐class research‐intensive university, to deliver teaching and facilitate learning of the highest quality, and to play a leading role in the economic, social and cultural development of the North East of England
This broad commitment set the strategic context for the development of Newcastle’s engagement strategy. A new role was created – PVC Engagement – to drive this forward, and Professor Paul Younger was appointed to this role in 2008. His own background included a long standing commitment to community-based research. His task was to translate the ambition of the mission into a strategic plan with broad support from staff across the university.
‘Seeing it embedded in the mission is an important liberation for those members of staff who are passionate about engagement. And it can be achieved quite quickly if you have the right people at the top. Converting it into buy in from across the university is a much longer game.’ Professor Paul Younger
Find out how the University of Newcastle tackled these other key areas: