Beacons for Public Engagement 2008-2012 (Completed)

In 2008, the former RCUK partnered with the UK funding councils and Wellcome Trust on the Beacons for Public Engagement initiative. Beacons for Public Engagement were university-based collaborative centres that helped support, recognise, reward and build capacity for public engagement work across the UK. Together with the UK funding councils and the Wellcome Trust, the research councils invested in this initiative in order to support a step-change in recognition for public engagement across the higher education sector. Six Beacons were established around the UK to pilot new methods to embed public engagement within their organisations, alongside the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

An independent review of the Beacons was carried out by People Science and Policy. A copy of the full evaluation (PDF, 349KB) is available along with appendices (PDF, 431KB).

Beacon North East

Beacon North East was a partnership between Newcastle University, Durham University, The International Centre for Life and local community groups. Its aim was to pioneer a series of conversations informing key research issues such as: energy and the environment; social inclusion and social justice; and ageing and vitality.

University of Manchester / Manchester Metropolitan / University of Salford / Museum of Science and Industry / Manchester:Knowledge Capital

The Manchester Beacon's activities were shaped and informed by the creativity and dynamism of the people of Manchester and Salford. This ensured that all members of the community, particularly residents from the poorest and most excluded neighbourhoods, benefited from their work. They focused on "reaching out", "listening to" and "learning from" local people. Their programme of activities was delivered in partnership with a wide range of local businesses, sports clubs, cultural venues, community groups and media organisations.

University of Edinburgh / Heriot-Watt University / Napier University / UHI Millennium Institute and other partners

Edinburgh Beltane (the Beacon in Scotland) aimed to encourage citizen participation and understanding of areas of research relevant to public policy such as health and life sciences, energy and environment. It brought together researchers in medicine and the sciences and engineering with those in social sciences, arts and humanities. This ensured breakthroughs in technology, medicines and treatments, and that new discoveries about big issues such as global warming are described in a human context that relates to health and the environment we live in.

University of Cardiff / University of Glamorgan / Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales / BBC Wales / Techniquest

The Beacon for Wales was a collaborative public engagement programme for Higher Education Institutions in Wales. Their plans included the establishment of a Wales Higher Education Engagement Network (WHEEN) to provide opportunities for higher education staff and students to network and share ideas on public engagement; the appointment of a high-level champion for public engagement, working with senior staff and university management to negotiate any necessary changes in policies and employment practices; the establishment of an awards system recognising engagement excellence in a variety of sectors; and four pilot projects to test approaches to new audiences and new techniques.

University College London / Southbank Centre / British Museum and other partners

UCL's plans included tailored training courses designed to empower staff and students to be part of the ongoing dialogue between researchers and the public, and the use of space on main routes of their campus for public activities, tours and installations. Their partners (the British Museum, the Southbank Centre, Birkbeck College, Cheltenham Science Festival, Arts Catalyst and City and Islington College) provided a unique grouping of expertise, networks and contacts which gave them opportunities for wide engagement with the general public, and also for focused work with small groups, including some of London's most disadvantaged communities.

University of East Anglia and other partners

UEA and partners, as CUE East (Community University Engagement East) established a one-stop shop for the public, located in 'The Forum' at the heart of Norwich, alongside the UK's most successful regional library and the BBC's regional offices and studios. Their overall theme was sustainable living, with a priority target audience of pupils, teachers and parents. The 22 external partners, including the East of England Development Agency, Business in the Community and BBC played a vital role in their delivery programme and critical thinking.