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UCL Provost's Award for Public Engagement

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Who: UCL-led Beacon for Public Engagement

What: Reward and recognition of public engagement activity

Why: Change attitudes towards Public Engagement.  Value and encourage it

Where: UCL London

When: 2009 onwards

Project description

The reward and recognition of public engagement activity is a core component of the overarching goals of the Beacon for Public Engagement (BPE) programme. The UCL-led Beacon for Public Engagement have approached this is a number of ways, including the organisation and delivery of an internal awards programme for public engagement called the Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement.

The first annual Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement were held at UCL in December 2009; staff and students were awarded prizes by UCL’s Provost Malcolm Grant for their contribution to public engagement. UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) received a departmental prize to acknowledge the shift in outlook on public work that has taken place in the department over that year. During 2009, numerous SSEES staff and students had been involved in a range of public activities from lectures to workshops. The experience and learning from their collective efforts was documented in public engagement toolkits, generated to share learning within the department.

The awards were publicised via the UCL website and internal networks – staff and students were asked to nominate fellow colleagues. Fifty-eight nominations were received for forty-two people for the four prizes.

The awards were attended by 60 staff and students from UCL, ranging in career levels (including Vice-Provosts, Heads of Departments, and postgraduate students), departments (e.g. engineering, geography, chemistry, architecture) and public engagement experience.

The second UCL Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement were held in December 2010.


The Awards for Public Engagement have a number of strategic aims, which include to:

• Encourage and support public engagement activities within UCL

• Present a passionate, visionary and clear articulation of public engagement at UCL

• Reward and recognise public engagement as an activity for staff at all levels and for students

• Change attitudes towards public engagement, so that it is seen as a positive, valued activity, embedded within the institution

Simon Gould, winner of the 2009 Provost's Award for his 'Object Retrieval' project.  Picture courtesy UCL Museums & Collections and Joshua Sofaer.

Lessons learned

• The UCL Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement provided a formal structure to recognise and reward public engagement within UCL, highlighting the institutions commitment to such activities

• The event provides a means to promote public engagement activities of UCL staff, students and departments, whilst inspiring others to involve the public in their work

• Feedback collected from attendees indicates a change in attitudes towards public engagement since attending the awards. The event was described as inspiring, interesting and encouraging by the majority of attendees. For some attendees, the awards widened their perception of public engagement activities being undertaken at UCL, whilst others noted that the event raised awareness that public engagement is supported and valued within the institution

• Despite glowing positive comments a number of tangible recommendations were made by  attendees to improve the event, these included: the desire to have information on and/or the details of all those nominated; requests for signposting to further information about the awardees and their work; specific, targeted invitations to the departments and/or research groups of those receiving awards. These recommendations shaped the delivery of the 2010 Awards


Information on the UCL Public Engagement Unit

Details of the 2010 UCL Provost’s Awards for Public Engagement

Contacts at UCL

Steve Cross:  Head of Public Engagement at UCL / 020 7679 3530 Strategy, culture change, embedding engagement, triggering activity. 
Hilary Jackson: Public Engagement Coordinator at UCL hilary.jackson@ / 0207 679 2489 Funding, supporting networks and individual projects.
Gemma Moore: Public engagement evaluation officer at UCL / 0207 679 4112 Evaluation plans and methods, public engagement case studies.