Public engagement helps universities maximise the benefits of their work to society – at the same time helping them to keep abreast of public concerns and expectations. You can download the full supporting evidence fact sheets at the bottom of this page.
Public engagement helps to maximise the flow of knowledge and learning between HEIs and society
Universities – through their staff, students and facilities – possess huge potential to catalyse learning and innovation in wider society. Strategic investment in public engagement helps to maximise this potential by focusing attention and support on the multiple, often informal, ways in which universities enrich the lives of the wider public.
It contributes to social justice and corporate responsibility and can lead to a range of positive social outcomes
By embedding public engagement into their work, universities are better able to respond to social need locally, nationally and globally. They can make a positive contribution to social justice, and develop more effective ways to support people to make a difference.
It can help to build trust and mutual understanding
Trust is critical to a healthy higher education system and to its licence to practice, but it is difficult for trust to take root unless there are opportunities for the public to engage with universities’ work. Over three quarters of the public agree that 'we ought to hear about potential new areas of science and technology before they happen, not afterwards'. Engagement creates space for trust and understanding to grow, at a time when deference to authority and professional expertise is decreasing.
It generates unforeseen outcomes, and stimulates creativity and innovation
One of the most profound joys of public engagement is its unpredictability: fresh perspectives, challenging questions, lateral insights - all can help to sharpen thinking, release precious energy and creativity and unlock new collaborations and resources:
"Public engagement sets in motion the most amazing things you can't predict", Dr Anne Cooke, Bristol Neuroscience, University of Bristol.