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PEP Insights Research Report

The experience of Public Engagement Professionals during Covid-19

updated on 09 Oct 2023
2 minutes read

In December 2019 the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in Wuhan in China. This marked the start of a global pandemic that we were still living through at the time of this report in September 2021.

The Covid-19 pandemic existed on an unprecedented scale. It resulted in a significant loss of life, with many countries being locked down to restrict infection rates, and impacted all areas of life, freedom, and livelihoods. It  highlighted issues of social inequality, as the spread of the virus and associated restrictions disproportionally affected those living in areas of deprivation. Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the Black Lives Matters movement brought the severity of the issues surrounding systemic racism, including those relating to the pandemic, to the forefront of people's minds, acting as a call to stand against racism in all its forms.

The pandemic also opened up a space to consider the significant impacts we are having on our climate, and the need to address this on a global, national and individual scale. It has created opportunities to re-think and re-imagine many aspects of social life, including the role played by universities in their communities.

This research captures a specific moment in time during the global pandemic. The main data gathering occurred between December 2020 and March 2021 whilst the global pandemic was impacting every country of the world. The UK was in the middle of a second lockdown, and there was significant uncertainty about the future; science was now in the public eye, as we saw the development of several effective vaccines; and the UK were at the start of a national vaccine programme. A PEP Insights Research Timeline has been provided with key dates of Covid-19 related restrictions in the UK at the time of the research. This research focuses on a specific group of people who work as Public Engagement Professionals (PEPs) within the higher education (HE) sector. UK universities have contributed significantly to the national response to the pandemic, and have faced significant challenges including providing effective education to their students, whilst ensuring that they were cared for appropriately. PEPs sit at the interface between the university and those living and working alongside them. Therefore they have unique perspectives and insights as to the impacts of the pandemic on them, their teams, and the public engagement (PE) work they have been involved in.

There are three outputs from the research.

The PEP Insights Research Survey Report which summarises the data from the survey

The PEP Insights Research Short Report is a shorter summary of the main findings.

This document, which synthesises the main findings from the research.