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Public Engagement

Introductory description

Public engagement is about connecting the work of universities with wider society. It takes many forms - from public facing events, blogs, or social media accounts, to collaborative research and empowering citizen researchers to lead projects. Through it both we and our audiences gain valuable insights through interaction and dialogue.

This module will introduce you to the concept and context of engagement. You'll be given the tools to effectively plan and evaluate public engagement, coming away with a range of practical and highly transferable engagement skills that will support you whether you go on to a career in academia, or outside it.

Module aims

This interdisciplinary module aims to give you both a theoretical and practical introduction to public engagement so that you can better understand the complex challenges involved in sharing ideas with audiences and communities beyond the university and feel confident in developing your own engagement initiatives in future.

We will do this by:

  • Introducing you to the concept of engagement and the methods used for engagement with an interdisciplinary lens.
  • Examining the role of a university and the wider public engagement sector in our society.
  • Giving you necessary tools to plan, carry out, and evaluate high quality public engagement interventions.
  • Supporting you to develop presentation, project management, verbal and written communication, and active listening skills that enable high quality engagement.
  • Engaging you with innovative and active learning. Ensuring you have the chance to put the theoretical concepts discussed to use through the design and delivery of your own public engagement event.

Module Convenor

Naomi Kay


This module runs twice.

IL926 - Easter Vacation Week 29 (Week beginning 15th April) and is offered at 15 and 20 CATS

IL939 - Spring term and is offered at 15 and 20 CATS

Wednesdays 09:00 - 11:00 TBC


For 15 CATS:

Engage with a public audience (50%)

Reflective journal (25%)

Digital engagement pieces (25%)

For 20 CATS:

Engage with a public audience (50%)

Reflective journal (25%)

Digital engagement pieces (25%)

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

Part 1 Introducing the concept and context of engagement (Background)

  1. What is engagement? Interdisciplinary panel discussion on what engagement is, why it’s important and what skills can be developed from it including improving general research communication. Students will also complete a reading/ research task to explore public engagement in your own discipline and share with the group.
  2. What is the role of a university? Debate about the wider context of engagement and our role as a Civic University.
  3. The engagement sector. Exploring what careers exist in engagement including museums/ galleries, outreach/ teaching, sci-com, engagement in academia, and support roles. How is engagement funded currently? What role will REF/ KEF have on this in future? Policy engagement.

    Part 2 Practical engagement skills

  4. Audiences and Collaborators. Who are our audiences for engagement? What makes an audience and what makes a collaborator? How do we tailor activities for them? How do we reach these partners? How can we tailor research communication for audiences of our peers vs external or non expert audiences.
  5. Online engagement. Exploring digital engagement methods and skills. Producing a public engagement output for online use (e.g., social media posts).
  6. Effective presentations. The role of storytelling and emotion in connecting with our audiences.
  7. Co-production/co-creation and collaborative projects. How can we work with communities, artists, museums etc. to make engagement happen? Lessons from Design Thinking on collaborative practice, co-creation and co-produced research.

    Part 3 Planning events

  8. Planning engagement. Structure for planning an engagement event, the role of People, Purpose, Process, Evaluation.
  9. Evaluation. Planning effective evaluation. Sharing outputs from evaluation (publishing engagement outcomes).
  10. Designing your public engagement activity. Workshopping session to put together your public engagement project and give each other feedback on the concepts you produce. Bringing together lessons on planning for engagement and evaluation as part of your design.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  1. Synthesise transdisciplinary perspectives of public engagement into an interdisciplinary understanding of public engagement techniques and approaches.
  2. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the multiple roles of a university and the part public engagement plays within this.
  3. Produce digital engagement pieces that demonstrate an ability to communicate complex ideas and topics to a lay audience.
  4. Meaningfully engage with a series of tools and techniques for planning and evaluating effective engagement to develop your own engagement activity.
  5. Reflect on their own engagement practice to identify strengths and weaknesses, and how to capitalise on/ mitigate for these in future engagement activities.
  6. Demonstrate relevant engagement skills in the delivery of a high-quality, two-way engagement activity.


This module will invite students to work with peers from a range of departments and explore the interdisciplinary picture of what public engagement is and what it means to different subject areas.

The production of a final activity will be an interdisciplinary undertaking with students working to develop a cohesive and well structured public engagement activity that also showcases their own work to the best of their ability. The module will provide students with an understanding of the different methods of public engagement favoured by different disciplines and encourage students to learn from these and what lessons could be applied to their own work.


This module will include references to how public engagement might look in other countries and sectors - as well as the varying terminology used around the international landscape.

Subject-specific skills

  • Understanding of public engagement as a concept and a sector
  • Understanding of audiences
  • Understanding of evaluation methods

Transferable skills

  • Communication
  • Project management
  • Presentation/ storytelling skills
  • Online engagement via social media
  • Team work
  • Co-production and collaboration