Beacons for Public Engagement

In 2008 the Beacons for Public Engagement initiative was launched. Its aim was to inspire a culture change in how universities engage with the public.

Six Beacon partnerships and a National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) were funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils, Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust.

The six Beacons were university-based collaborative centres that were set up to support, recognise, reward and build capacity for public engagement, with a lifespan of four years. The Beacons were at the forefront of efforts to change the culture in universities, assisting staff and students to engage with the public. Their partners included further education colleges, museums, galleries, businesses, charities, TV and press, and public bodies.

The six Beacon partnerships

  • The Beacon for Wales was a partnership between Cardiff University, University of Glamorgan, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, Techniquest, and BBC Wales. It aimed to develop the skills and confidence of university staff and students in listening to and learning from publics across Wales
  • Community University Engagement East was led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and was designed to foster an informed climate to improve quality of life, support social and economic regeneration regionally and inculcate civic values.
  • Edinburgh Beltane aspired to empower people to engage in public policy issues (such as health and energy) by ensuring research expertise in these areas is made accessible and relevant. This Beacon was a large partnership led by the University of Edinburgh and included all the higher education institutions in Edinburgh, plus the UHI Millennium Institute and thirteen other public, policy, engagement and research organisations.
  • The Manchester Beacon combined the complementary strengths of The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Salford with the Museum of Science and Industry and Manchester: Knowledge Capital.
  • Beacon North East was a partnership between Newcastle University, Durham University and the Centre for Life.
  • University College London’s Beacon activity was based in thir new dedicated Public Engagement Unit. The team work to embed public engagement across all of university life, and to nurture a continuous two-way exchange of thought, knowledge and expertise between staff, students and people outside academia.


The projects all completed final reports and evaluations to document the progress they made and lessons learned. All of these reports have now been published and can be accessed here as resources.