The Engage Watermark is an award granted by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) to higher education institutions to recognise their strategic support for public engagement and their commitment to improve the support offered.
The Watermark process invites universities to reflect on their current public engagement practice— assessing the understanding and awareness of public engagement, the support for high quality engagement activities, and the institution’s strategic intent—through a university-wide survey, a series of site-visits, and one-to-one interviews. Universities can then use the recommendations to develop a robust plan to enhance their engagement work moving forward.
In 2016, Queen Mary became the first institution to receive a Gold Engage Watermark, awarded to institutions which are beacons of excellence in the support on offer for public engagement.
After holding a Gold Engage Watermark for four years, Queen Mary is now eligible to apply for the Platinum Watermark—the highest award possible. This Watermark is awarded to institutions that evidence a sustained commitment to high-quality public engagement and are acting as leaders within the field.
From November 2020 onwards, Queen Mary will begin the assessment process for the Platinum Engage Watermark. Over the subsequent 6-9 months, the NCCPE will work alongside Queen Mary’s Centre for Public Engagement to gather insights on engagement from students and staff across the University to help evaluate where we are at present, and help us understand what we need to do in future to further embed and enable a culture of engagement.
We will additionally be using the insights gathered from the Platinum Engage Watermark assessment to feed into the development of Queen Mary’s Public Engagement Enabling Plan.
The Engage Watermark Survey invited all staff and students at Queen Mary to share their thoughts on, and experiences of, public engagement at the University. This was completed in December 2020. These results will be made available to the Centre for Public Engagement as part of the reporting from the Watermark in mid-2021.
Members of the NCCPE team have met with key members of staff across Queen Mary in a mix of one-to-one interviews and focus groups. These sessions were designed to allow the NCCPE to have more in-depth discussions about the public engagement support at the University. This process was completed mid-February.
Using the evidence and materials collected, the NCCPE have produced a report on the support for engagement at Queen Mary, including recommendations for future development. In response, Queen Mary have produced an action plan document which addresses some of these areas and has been fed in to the final version of the Public Engagement Enabling Plan (currently in final stages of development).
The NCCPE are in the process of finalising the assessment, taking into account Queen Mary's 'Action Plan' developed in response to their observation.
The NCCPE will award the appropriate 'level' of Engage Watermark to reflect Queen Mary's commitment to, and support for, public engagement. We hope to announce the outcome of this in Autumn/Winter 2021.