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The University of Sheffield

Remaking the Civic University

Creating new cultural standards for public engagement

Led by Professor Richard Jones, PVC for Research & Innovation and Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Head of Culture & Director of the Fairground Archive

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We have taken the opportunity in this time of rapid change in the UK higher education system to reassert some of the fundamental values of the University of Sheffield as a Civic University. A University founded for and by the people of its city, whose research priorities should reflect widely shared societal goals.

The development of a widely understood identity for the University of Sheffield as a research-led University with a powerful culture of civic engagement has been identified by the University’s Executive as one of its main priorities for the coming five years.

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The ambition for the Public Engagement with Research team is to effect cultural change in the University of Sheffield, so there is a widespread expectation that staff at all levels can contribute to public engagement, that staff who do so can expect their efforts to be recognised and celebrated, and most importantly, that this engagement will have real influence on the strategic direction of the University.

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This new agenda will be implemented through a combination of leadership at the highest levels of the institution, with the support of the Vice-Chancellor and the University Executive Board, a systematic review of institutional practises and processes, and practical support for the existing, widespread network of public engagement practitioners from the Public Engagement with Research team.

The University will see an expanded network of public engagement practitioners who are more effective and feel more supported by the University. This public engagement will have had an effect on individual researchers, making them reassess their own research aims and priorities, but it should also start to influence the wider research strategies of the University. The aspiration of the University is to carry out research that contributes positively to widely shared societal goals; this aspiration cannot be met without being successful in deeply embedding public engagement in the way the University operates.


Greg Oldfield, Head of Public Engagement