The Professor Sir David Watson Awards for Community University Partnerships

Professor Sir David Watson

The first call for applications for the Professor Sir David Watson Awards for Community University Partnerships was launched on 29th November 2016 at the NCCPE's Engage Conference in Bristol. Stuart Laing, Professor Emeritus at the University of Brighton, explains more.

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These awards are designed to recognise the combined efforts of community and university partners towards making a difference to the lives of people in their shared community. They have been created in memory of Professor Sir David Watson, honouring his leadership in encouraging community-university engagement and continuing his drive to place community engagement at the centre of the missions of universities world-wide. £5,000 will be available to the winning scheme.

Across the globe, innovative collaborations between communities and academia are addressing some of today’s most complex challenges around social justice, community resilience and inequality. The award scheme offers winning projects a modest financial reward – but, more importantly, the awards will attract national and international publicity and exposure. This will allow participants from around the world to share stories of their combined efforts, deepening the impact of their work locally and helping to raise awareness of community-university partnership work globally.

The Professor Sir David Watson Awards for Community University Partnerships acknowledge his leadership in community university engagement and in social responsibility in higher education.

Professor Sir David Watson's Legacy

David Watson was (and remains) among the foremost thinkers of our time about the purposes of higher education. 

David foresaw: 

'The emergence of a new stage in the development of institutional mission – civic and community engagement as a new paradigm...This paradigm builds upon and also moves beyond the historical models that emphasize liberal education, and professional formation, and in some instances, the university as a research engine.  It posits community engagement not as a separate kind of activity, but as a focus of the institution’s teaching and research, and as a strategy for achieving greater quality and impacts in the institution’s teaching and research.' (The Engaged University, p.xxvii)

He argued that:

'[We] need to change the perception among faculty and community partners about the nature of civic engagement from thinking of it as a philanthropic activity to a one of reciprocity that respects that knowledge exists both in the university and the community.' (The Engaged University, p.236)

And he perceived that:

'Civic engagement presents a challenge to universities to be of and not just in the community: not simply to engage in “knowledge-transfer” but to establish a dialogue across the boundary between the University and its community which is open-ended, fluid and experimental.' (Managing Civic and Community Engagement, p. 3)

The Professor Sir David Watson Awards for Community University Partnerships are one way of helping us all to meet that challenge and will be open for nominations from the beginning of December 2016. Why not give it a go?

Supporting the Awards

The awards have been sponsored by:

  • The Talloires Network, a global network of community-engaged universities that Sir David helped to build and lead;

  • The UK's National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE);

  • Engagement Australia;

  • The University of Winchester.

In addition, a number of individuals across the world who knew or worked with David have chosen to given donations towards the scheme.

The awards scheme is supported by an international group of networks and leaders in the field, including Budd Hall and Rajesh Tandon (the UNESCO co-chairs for Community Based Research), Professor Mary Stuart (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lincoln) and David Wolff (Director of the University of Brighton Community University Partnership Programme - CUPP). 

The awards scheme needs to attract ongoing support so that the awards can be offered each year.  You can give online here or alternatively you can find out about other ways to give by emailing

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