The Engaged University? From theory to practice

The Engaged University? From theory to practice

Friday 8th January 2010
1230 lunch followed by seminar 1300 -1500

Room W6 Wilson Building
Edge Hill University

(If you would like to reserve a place, please email Angie Daly on dalya [at]

The public engagement remit of universities has been described by HEFCE/RCUK as the “ambition for a different, more inclusive relationship between the academic and non-academic worlds” ( Dimensions of public engagement include: public access to knowledge & facilities; widening participation; student and staff engagement; encouraging economic regeneration and enterprise and institutional relationship and partnership building. Activities involve staff and students at all levels of universities and the publics/communities with whom they engage (Auditing, Evaluating and Benchmarking Public Engagement: NCCPE Briefing Paper No.1).

Knowledge exchange can be viewed a central element of public engagement which at Edge Hill University is defined broadly and “recognises various forms of collaboration and benefit, extending well beyond narrow notions of income generation” (DRKT Knowledge Transfer Development Fund). Activities here include wider benefits of applied of knowledge and skills; critical analysis of policy and practice; commercial income generation through research, knowledge transfer and training services and consultancy. Following on from the Centre for Local Policy Studies Research Exchange Seminar on ‘Concepts of Knowledge Exchange’, we would like to continue the discussion about what knowledge exchange and public engagement means for us at Edge Hill.

We are pleased to welcome

who will share with us experiences of researching the interface between universities and publics through a national and university-wide systemic action research project.

Come and join us to explore:

  • Perceptions of public engagement and the role of universities?
  • Knowledge exchange/public engagement activities at Edge Hill?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities?

If you would like to reserve a place, please email Angie Daly on dalya [at] .

Please include any dietary requirements, as lunch is included.


Chair               Stuart Speeden, Centre for Local Policy Studies

1230    Lunch

1300    Introduction: Thinking about knowledge exchange and public engagement

1310    Motivations for public engagement: Whose Interests? Heather Squires

1330    Researching public engagement cultures. Danny Burns

1400    The ‘engaged university’? Where are we now?

1440    Review: What are the opportunities and challenges?

1500    Close

Research Paper Sessions – Case Studies

This presentation of research and evidence based case studies was chaired by Dr Paul Greenbank.  Jennifer Caunt from Manchester Metropolitan University presented “Widening Access – Is It Fair”; Ken Neil and Eileen Reid, from the Glasgow School of Art presented “Accessing and Decoding Communities of Cultural Capital”; Robert Child and Teresa Caldwell from the Centre for Widening Participation at Liverpool Hope University presented “Undergraduate mentoring schemes provide significant opportunity of personal reflection and development in both mentors and participating school students”; Gill Marshall from the University of Cumbria presented “Are non-standard entrants appropriately induced and integrated into Master’s level courses?”.  Extracts from these case studies can be found on the blog.

Research Paper Sessions – Embedding Change

This presentation of research and evidence based papers was chaired by Dr Ian Bruff.  Joanna Papageorgiou, from the Research Team at UCAS presented “What can the UCAS ‘tick box’ tell us about the progression of applicants who have been in care?”; Katherine Hewlett, In Curriculum Development Director from the University of Westminster and Chris Lowthorpe, InCurriculum Unit Leader from Norwich University College of the Arts presented “InCurriculum ~ Developing and inclusive curriculum in Higher Education; Richard Huggins from Oxford Brookes, Liz Marr from Manchester Metropolitan University and David Woodman from Roehampton University Collaborative Partnerships Office presented “Unreasonable Adjustments? Lessons from Internationalisation”; and Sue Hatt and Jim tate from the University of the West of England presented “Aimhigher and the FE College; strategic synergy?”.  Copies of the extracts from these presentation can be found on the blog.

Research Paper Session – Knowing our communities

This presentation of research and evidence based papers was chaired by Angie Daly. Dr Eamon O’Doherty, Research Development Officer from the Higher Education Research Centre, University of Salford presented ‘Sites of Engagement in Education and Working Class Adults Voices’; Sue Hatt from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of the West of England presented “Exploring the ‘known
unknowns’: A study of UCAS data; Dr Liza van Zyl from the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, University of Glamorgan presented “’Can’t they go to someone else’s lecture!’ – Challenging the barriers to widening participation”; and Margaret Hart, Head of Widening Participation, The Open University and Sarah Wilkinson, Community Partnerships Manager, The Open University in the North West presented “Tackling the access and attainment gap for students from low socio-economic groups: how practice in communities is influencing policy in the Open University. Extracts from these papers can be found on the blog.

Plenary – Chair Professor John Diamond

Prof. john Diamond

Prof. John Diamond


John started the session by reminding delegates of the context of the workshop sessions such as whether the ways in which public sector organisations have to examine providing equality in the totality of their operations can translate to Higher Education:  Whether we understand completely how individuals from ethnic minorities are drawn into and supported within the Higher Education system: How commercialisation is affecting the sector and the rise of New Managerialism: and how this needs to be understood within a much broader canvas of post 9/11, the implosion of the financial sector and the economy, and the wishful ideal of increasing the numbers of students within the UK Higher Education system given these ongoing problems.  There was a very impassioned debate regarding how institutions structure and restructure themselves and the feedback from the workshops was that the papers had had a very positive impact on those taking part and they felt that rather than feeling isolated in trying to widen participation they realised that there were lots of like minded people out there and that networks both within institutions and between institutions would become increasingly important in moving this work from the periphery to the centre of policy and practice.

Panel Discussion chaired by Prof. John Diamond


Professor John Diamond outlined how the thought provoking discussions of the keynote speakers had worked through the scales of resolution from Kathleen’s global perspective through Mary’s national perspective to Stuart’s local perspective of individual organisations.  The wide variety of questions and observations that the discussions had sparked included: how academics veered from extreme passion and interest in what they were doing in widening participation to the depths of despair that bureaucracy, infrastructure and league tables can engender.  There were passionate debates on what kinds of institutions UK universities are – public or private or a combination of both – and the various issues that arise from introducing a commercial element, whether partially or wholy and the impacts this has on widening participation and how it can undermine democracy.  Delegates from other European countries also discussed how their models of tertiary provision compared and differed to the UK model.

Stuart Speeden – Keynote Speaker

Stuart Speeden

Stuart Speeden

Stuart Speeden is the Director of the Centre for Local Policy Studies and he emphasised that the work of the Centre is based on the mainstreaming of equality within a variety of organisations but with a focus on the public and voluntary sectors.  He discussed the general and specific duties regarding equality of opportunity that have been placed on public bodies by legislation over the past ten years and the kinds of approaches that can be taken to address institutional discrimination and barriers in undertaking these duties.  One of the ways in which this can be done is by the Equalities Standard which was designed by Stuart in collaboration with Dr Julian Clarke.  Many Local Authorities and other organisations use the Equalities Standard to assess the level to which they are engaging in equal opportunities.  He went on to link this to widening participation in educational institutions and how mainstreaming equality can be used to address the issues raised by Mary in her keynote speech.

Mary Tupan-Wenno – Keynote Speaker

Dr Mary Tupan-Wenno

Dr Mary Tupan-Wenno

Mary Tupan-Wenno is the President of the European Access Network which is the only European-wide, non-organisational organisation for widening participation in Higher Education.  Mary shared some of the reseach that has been recently undertaken within Europe that addressed how different countries deal with the education of immigrants.  This research focused on Higher Education and found that there was very little information on inequities within tertiary education and little emphasis on collecting information on the equity of outcome.  Of the data that was available it was shown was that there was a particular relationship between socio-economic background and participation in Higher Education and that in some countries there were serious challenges to the inclusion of ethnic minorities. Mary went on to discuss further research from several countries that focused on how these issues could be addressed and investigated what support mechanisms are necessary for successful participation.

Professor Kathleen Lynch – Keynote Speaker

Professor Kathleen Lynch

Professor Kathleen Lynch

Professor Kathleen Lynch from the Equality Studies Centre, School of Social Justice, University College, Dublin is an activist academic who is committed to widening participation into Higher Education.  Her closely argued speech outlined the global movement towards the commercialisation of Higher Education and the negative impacts that this has had on other areas of publically funded programmes such as those that are aimed at widening participation and the effects this commercialisation has had on academic research.    She went on to describe the ways in which university rankings and league tables are driven and controlled by commercialisation.  Kathleen concluded by saying that if we are really committed to equality of opportunity then other values must be taken into account; the focus needs to change; and that the hierarchical culture needs to be addressed.

Dr John Cater welcomes the delegates

Dr John Cater

Dr John Cater

Dr John Cater the Vice Chancellor of  Edge Hill University warmly welcomed the delegates to the second Widening Participation Research Centre Conference.  He reminded us that the values of equity and equality are important to all cultures but they can be defined in very different ways by policy makers.  He went on to passionately defend the practice-based  research approach as it can make a difference to people’s lives and he believes is undervalued by the funding organisations.  He concluded his introduction by underlining the fact that Edge Hill actively supports widening participation in a variety of ways and levels.