More Search
We help universities engage with the public

Engage Watermark

Engage Watermark Banner

Recognising excellence in institutional support for public engagement

Acting in a similar way to a charter mark, the Engage Watermark is an award granted to institutions to recognise their strategic support for public engagement and their commitment to improve the support offered. Just as a watermark runs through the fabric of a document, an Engage Watermark indicates that engagement runs through the fabric of an institution.

Institutions applying for the Engage Watermark will receive a synthesis of key data relating to their institution, enabling them to recognise core strengths as well as highlight areas for development. This intelligence gathering provides a rich source of data to strengthen the institution’s support for impactful public engagement.

Completing the Watermark process will allow institutions to:

  • Assess their support for high quality public engagement with research against the NCCPE’s EDGE tool
  • Assess understanding and awareness of public engagement across their institution
  • Assess their institution’s strategic intent and how effectively it is focussed on enhancing the quality of its support
  • Benchmark their activity against other HEIs and monitor progress


  • Why a watermark?
    • Since 2008 there has been strategic investment in encouraging universities to embed engagement into their work. A recent report, that sought to take stock of progress to date, suggested that much had been achieved, but there were opportunities and challenges ahead. One such opportunity was the need to recognise and reward excellence in institutional support for public engagement. The Watermark is one key way to do this.
  • Award levels
    • The Engage Watermark has four levels of award, each relating to a different stage that an institution has reached in its support for public engagement. After three years, institutions with a gold award can apply for the platinum level – evidencing a sustained commitment to public engagement. Find out more about each level here.
  • Assessment process
    • The Engage Watermark follows a rigorous four stage assessment process, with the exact detail of the process dependent on the level of award being applied for. Find out more here, or download the brochure.
  • Benefits of the assessment process
    • Institutions will benefit in the following ways from the process:
    • - Undertaking a focussed ‘stock take’ of existing evidence of the impact of their support for engagement
    • - Complementing the above with targeted additional intelligence gathering to build a robust picture
    • - Having that evidence synthesised and reviewed by an external organisation and benchmarked against other HEIs
    • - Receiving a set of recommendations and prompts to inform a refreshed action plan, with clear outcomes/success measures
    • - A final assessment of that action plan and the underpinning evidence base
    • - The opportunity to demonstrate to staff, students, partners and funders the institution’s commitment to public engagement
    • - Compelling evidence to submit to underpin funding applications, REF submissions, and other quality assurance processes

Engage Watermark Faculty Award

The Engage Watermark is an institutional level award. We are currently piloting a version of the award at a faculty/research institute level, and will be launching it in 2018.

Get involved

If you would like to apply for the Engage Watermark (at an institutional of faculty level), or have questions about it, then please get in touch with the scheme’s administrator Lisa Adlington at or 0117 328 7190. We will be opening for applications in January 2018.