Brunel University London

Why we've signed the Manifesto

"The purpose of a university is to advance the knowledge of the communities it serves, and to help prepare their young people to make their own contribution to the common good. This cannot happen in isolation; communication with the very many people who support and benefit from our work is a core function of this University, as can be seen from the huge range of engagement activities we undertake. Our intention is to broaden and deepen our links with our communities, to confirm Brunel as a highly valuable, well-connected and respected element in their social, economic and intellectual fabric."

Professor Julia Buckingham, Vice Chancellor and President

"Brunel has always been an institution firmly engaged with the wider world. Whether by producing graduates ready for their future careers, well equipped for the world of work, or by pursuing research addressing major societal challenges, we ensure that our academic activity benefits society. We are therefore delighted to support the NCCPE by signing their manifesto, confirming our intention to communicate the findings of our research and scholarship to the public."

Professor Geoff Rodgers, Vice Provost - Research

Our approach to public engagement

At Brunel University, we are fully committed to public engagement. We have established it as a priority across our organisation, research and teaching.

Staff development and student development opportunities

Awards

  • Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for Institute of the Environment
  • Athena SWAN Bronze award for advancement of women in science, engineering and technology

Opportunities to reach out to the community through our research

  • Urban Scholars programme: Run through our Brunel Able Children’s Education Centre, our decade-long Urban Scholars programme has encouraged over 800 teenagers from deprived London schools who were seen as high achieving, or capable of being so, into higher education
  • Health & Sport Engagement Project: Sport England / National Lottery Award funded collaboration between Sports Science and Health Economics Research Group to train sport coaches and health practitioners to work together across 15 different sports with people in Hounslow
  • Progeria Research Fund: Through our Centre for Cell and Chromosome Biology, we support research into the premature causes of ageing in Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome

Opportunities for the staff and students to engage with the public via a number of public events, programmes and spaces

  • Our public lecture series which includes the Athena Swan Lecture and features talks on a range of subjects, recently women in science, chemicals and the environment and press regulation. Attracts over 7,000 people every year from the local community and beyond

  • We also offer a wealth of exhibitions, conferences and seminars in specific subject areas:

    • Made in Brunel annual exhibition and Pecha Kucha talks: Public showcase of the  work of Brunel design and engineering students
    • Made in Brunel Software Innovation  Show case of Computer Science students’ work presented to Industry
    • Institute of Composing debates
    • Brunel Institute for Ageing Studies seminar series
    • Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) launch and seminar series
    • Centre for Culture Media and Regulation (CCMR) seminar series
    • Brunel Institute for Contemporary Middle Eastern Music - concerts and debates
    • Centre for Sustainable Energy Use in Food Chains launch
    • Antonin Artaud Forum – conference on theatre, the body and politics
    • Brunel Author Series - guest authors read and debate their work in Brunel library
    • Gender & Sexuality Research Centre
    • Brunel Engineers Showcase
    • Human Centred Design Institute
    • The Power of the Monstrous – School of Social & Political Thought seminars
    • School of Education public events
    • Brunel Heritage Research Network
  • Brunel contributions to national or educational initiatives such as:
    • Brain Awareness Week
    • International Women’s Day
    • Sponsorship of the Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC
    • World Social Work Day
    • United Nations World Toilet Day
    • Cheltenham Science Festival
    • The 27th International British HCI Conference
    • International Symposium on Broadband Systems & Broadcasting 2013
    • National Science and Engineering week
    • Aldeburgh Music
    • Centrally heated knickers – children’s science theatre show
    • National and International Sports Conferences
  • School and College visits, Open days, Campus tours, Personalised tours and Applicant days: We reach 15,000 people every year through:
    • Girls Allowed – one day event to encourage girls into Physics based HE courses:
    • Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) days: Practical university-led sessions for Year 9 students from 14 schools
    • CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) Engineering visits to encourage apprentices into Engineering degrees
    • Year 12 taster days: An in-depth look into a selection of our courses for Year 12s to gain a practical insight into the subject area at degree level. Subjects included: Biosciences, Business, ICT, Economics, Law, Maths, Occupational Therapy, Psychology, Sports Science, Social Work and Sociology & Media
    • Anthropology Year 12 & 13 taster day with Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) 
    • Widening Participation – Activities to encourage students from under-represented groups into the University through activities in schools, colleges and community groups
    • Library Workshops - For school groups to use our facilities through workshops providing the opportunity to develop academic, research and information literacy skills. Useful for students preparing for the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).
    • Teachers & Career Advisers Conference - Aimed at informing key advisers about the University and our courses as well as providing an opportunity to meet and network with our schools liaison and academic staff.
    • Vice Chancellor’s Round Table - 23 schools and colleges identified to be invited for a round table session to learn more about Brunel’s mission, discuss potential collaborations such as curriculum development and master classes and talk about the latest developments in education policy.
  • Alumni events
  • Overseas careers fairs
    • Brunel Business School showcases best of British education in Bahrain to encourage more women in the region into HE

Making links with the local community and business

  • Brunel Sport actively engages with local residents:

    • Active 50s group who take part in light exercise, short tennis and badminton
    • Collaboration with local stroke project
    • School holiday activities for local children and young people:
    • Brunel Badminton and Basketball Academies
    • Weekly football sessions with DASH and Chelsea FC for young people not in education, employment or training
  • Brunel Arts Centre: Offers a range of performances, classes and concerts to staff, students and members of the public
  • Public events on campus: Brunel Fireworks, One World Week
  • Brunel Good Neighbour: annual scheme which recognises positive neighbourly relationships in the local area. Nominations are received from local community members and then prizes are awarded to both the student and the local resident that nominated them.
  • The University of Brunel Students (UBS) Town and Gown Working Group – bringing local residents, University staff and Union Of Brunel Students together to resolve local issues
  • Hillingdon Association of Voluntary Services conferences
  • Hillingdon Town Twinning Event - with Germany and France
  • Hillingdon Festival of Education – with local Head teachers and students
  • Award winning conferencing facilities for use by business and the wider public
  • Working with corporate partners:
    • Etihad Airways MBA programme:
    • Establishing the National Structural Integrity Research Centre in collaboration with TWI
    • SAS careers fair:
    • Student Mock Interviews - Brunel business partners give students the opportunity be interviewed to gain experience of what a real interview is like
    • Brunel Business Expo
    • Place West London - Brunel sponsors and exhibits at business conference
    • Co-Innovate project for London SMEs
    • Brunel Innovation Hub - space for students, staff and externals to engage in entrepreneurship activities
    • Computer Science business initiatives

Our public engagement hallmark

An area of our public engagement which is very exciting to us is examining how we can explore fundamental science with the public by collaborating with the world of the creative arts. Our Public Engagement champion, physicist Professor Akram Khan, joined Sci-Fi author  SF Said  in conversation at the  Hay Festival. In an event called Black Holes and multi-verses: Where science and fiction collide, they explored the interaction between the works of the narrative imagination and cutting-edge cosmic science. 

Prof Khan said: "Fundamental scientists are constantly creating theories that help us better explain the operations of the universe in its most inaccessible domains, and to be able to do this with some success they have to be able to draw upon an intuitive understanding that allows them to transcend the abstract schemas they already possess. Though fantastically imaginative and intellectually exciting, this work is indifferent to human concerns, and entirely devoid of ethical content, focusing exclusively as it does on laying bare the intrinsic logic of the relationships within various frames of abstract representation.

"Narrative fiction, on the other hand, is all about human concerns, and is able to take us into regions of what is possible though not actual yet. It allows us to explore the radical consequences of the innovations that pioneering science is ever poised to deliver.

"How important is it then to ensure that the scientific enterprise is properly humanised through being blended with the insights of the literary imagination? Not only will this make it more responsive to our human predicament, but it will make it more accessible as well."

For Prof Khan, it is a guiding principle in his approach with his students to stimulate their creativity and cultivate their imagination in their learning through encouraging engagement with relevant works of the literary imagination. 

Professor Akram Khan recently returned from the  Bradford Literary Festival, where he participated in three seminars Prof Khan explains: "At CERN, we are beginning to look at articulating science using techniques deployed in a range of artistic expressive modes – it’s another thread in the tapestry of understanding reality."
 
Embarking on a journey of ethical self-discovery to understand our social reality was central to the discussion in  Today’s society as a reflection of Dante’s Inferno.  Prof Khan continues: "In Dante’s vision, you have to give up on the idea of exercising free will if you are to get to paradise or heaven; if you don’t, you stay in hell."  Prof Khan argues that, "relinquishing the idea of free will is dangerous; this idea is essential to a proper engagement in life, allowing us to take the necessary responsibility for all our actions.  The Inferno can be read as a brilliant metaphor for the multiplying metastasis of suffering in the contemporary world; we can think of the multidimensional virtual world of cyber space surrounding us as hell, invisible wires conveying countless images of unbearable torment, and irresistible messages of hate, with the terrifying potential for devastating violence in the real world."
 
The idea of living forever has the power to be a controversial topic and Prof Khan’s most well attended session was  The Science of Immortality, with Anthony Peake, who’s recently written a book of the same name. Although acknowledging Peake’s fluent grasp and efficient deployment of some of the principles of quantum mechanics to serve his system, Prof Khan was: "not a little disturbed by the confidence and the skill with which Peake projected his ideas as ‘a science’…because they confirm the aspirations of many for a life after death, they will, all too readily, be taken as carrying the imprimatur of proper science for their supernatural beliefs." The picture opposite shows Prof Khan explaining the process by which our cells age. He was very keen to stress that, "though we may not yet be able to live forever, excepting that fact does inspire us to contrive to live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives, making this world a better place for all in which to live."
 
Getting people engaged in science is vital to Prof Khan: "It’s beautiful to see an engaged audience. Challenging ideas is what excites scientists; we love embedding seeds of doubt in people’s minds."

Our public engagement talking point

The increase in both emphasis and scale of public engagement with research is undoubtedly a positive thing and of course why Brunel supports the NCCPE and its work. However the next area of focus must be on evaluation of the engagement activity that takes place. There is of course a growing body of academic work on just this subject but the breadth of the forms and channels of public engagement activity means that we have probably only just scratched the surface.

In order for Public Engagement to be truly successful we must all look to evaluate our activity appropriately and to share that knowledge openly. It is only through the development of a significant evidence base that we will utilise public engagement funding effectively and by that I mean that we engage in ways that the public recognise and find engaging and in turn develop a true understanding of the contribution that our Universities and their research make to society.

Our public engagement people

Professor Akram Khan is a world-leading researcher in the areas of fundamental and applied science and is the Public Engagement Champion at Brunel. Akram not only focusses on his specific research area but champions the cause of public engagement across Brunel University London, including leading on our highly successful partnership with the Cheltenham Festival but also on exciting projects such as his inter disciplinary work with renowned contemporary writer and thinker Will Self.

Contact

Andrew Kershaw, Director of Business Engagement Strategy

andrew.kershaw@brunel.ac.uk