The Open University

Why we've signed the Manifesto

“We were delighted to become a signatory to the NCCPE’s Manifesto for Public Engagement. Engagement has always been an integral part of our open learning mission, putting students at the heart of everything we value. Becoming a signatory to the NCCPE Manifesto gave us an opportunity to re-state this commitment, exploring how these principles could become embedded within our research culture, incorporating the perspectives of stakeholders, user communities and members of the public.

We remain committed to creating the conditions where engaged research can flourish and where excellence in research engagement is recognised and valued. In embedding the principles, values and reflective practices of engaged research within The Open University, we want to ensure that our research has relevance in wider society, embracing an ‘ecology of openness’ as we celebrate success as an open research university.”

Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University

Our approach to public engagement

In recent years the Open University has sought to identify, share and embed state-of-the-art principles and practices of engaged research. We define engaged research in the following terms:

“Engaged research encompasses the different ways that researchers meaningfully interact with various stakeholders* over any or all stages of a research process, from issue formulation, the production or co-creation of new knowledge, to knowledge evaluation and dissemination.”

*Stakeholders may include user communities, and members of the public or groups who come into existence or develop an identity in relationship to the research process.

Through organisational change we have sought to create the conditions where engaged research supports our long-term commitment to social justice and inclusion, and the principles of the RCUK Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research.

Open University Engaging Research Award Winners with Members of the Assessment Panel. Photo: Chris Valentine.

Supporting organisational change

The Open University ran two publicly-funded projects to support organisational change in relation to engaged research: 1) as one of eight Public Engagement with Research Catalysts; and 2) as one of 12 School-University Partnerships (SUPI), the latter working with the Denbigh Teaching School Alliance in Milton Keynes.

We asked students what attributes they wanted to see in university researchers visiting their school. They responded: be positive, inquisitive imaginative and creative (Collins et al., 2015). Photo: Mark Russell.

Through these complementary projects, we developed and implemented successful strategies that laid the foundations to change the culture of our research, aligning this with our mission to be ‘open to people, places, methods and ideas’.

We are continuing to build on the foundations of our PER Catalyst and SUPI projects by taking the change agenda for engaged research at the University to the next level, connecting the learning from these earlier projects with the OU’s Academic Strategy to embed a culture of aspiration where engaged research is fully supported, valued, rewarded and integrated within institutional policies and operational practices.


Engaging Research:

An Open Research University:


Name: Professor Richard Holliman

Title: Professor of Engaged Research