Press release

Dundee honoured for commitment to public engagement

Published on 1 December 2020

The University of Dundee has become the first university in Scotland – and only the third in the UK – to receive a Gold Watermark in recognition of its commitment to public engagement.

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The University of Dundee has become the first university in Scotland – and only the third in the UK – to receive a Gold Watermark in recognition of its commitment to public engagement.

The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) runs the Engage Watermark – a charter mark awarded to universities for excellence in their support and practice of public engagement in all aspects of their work. Dundee was awarded the highest level of accolade currently available following a rigorous assessment involving staff from across the University and partner organisations.

University staff have developed innovative and meaningful ways to engage with society, including its civic role in partnership with V&A Dundee, UNESCO City of Design, and Dundee Science Centre, communicating the science behind COVID-19 and leading projects to aid the fight against it, and working with street youth in African cities to inform and influence international policy.

The award acknowledges not just the level of public engagement activity but strategic support across the organisation, as well as the plans to develop this work in the future.

Professor David Maguire, Interim Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said, “I am delighted to accept this prestigious award on behalf of the University of Dundee. I am extremely proud to lead an institution where our staff and student community are so passionate about engaging with the city and beyond, to effect real change, and to develop meaningful relationships with those we engage with.

“Our mission as a university is to transform lives locally and globally through the creation, sharing and application of knowledge. This award shows that we do not only state our aspirations but we live up to them through our actions and activity. My thanks go to everyone in our University community who has contributed to our public engagement work.”

Just as a watermark runs through the fabric of a document, an Engage Watermark indicates that engagement runs through the fabric of the institution.

Engagement helps ensure that research is accountable, transparent and relevant. As much of the work carried out at universities is publicly funded, it is right that citizens not only know what goes on in labs and workshops, but also help shape this activity. Public engagement also helps researchers and universities respond to societal needs locally, nationally and globally while building trust and mutual understanding.

It is increasingly recognised that universities have a significant role to play in their local, national and global communities to stimulate learning and innovation, particularly in the context of COVID-19 as well as empowering citizens to spot and challenge misinformation.

The Gold Engage Watermark recognises exceptional strategic leadership of public engagement, high standards of professional support, and excellence in partnership working. Gold Watermark winners also understand the challenges ahead and areas of relative weakness, and can evidence their commitment to addressing these.

Paul Manners, Co-Director of the NCCPE, said, “Since the early days of the NCCPE we have been championing a culture in higher education where public engagement can thrive.  The Engage Watermark offers a benchmarking opportunity for institutions to evidence their commitment and achievements – combined with intelligence gathering to inform their future planning.

“We are delighted to be able to award The University of Dundee a Gold Engage Watermark. They have convincingly demonstrated that public engagement is intrinsic to the University and is a core part of its mission.

“The University is deeply engaged in Dundee and the symbiotic relationship underpins some excellent, sustained engagement programmes, including their partnership with the V&A. The University has meaningful relationships with community partners who valued their long-standing relationships, collaborative planning and their equitable interactions. We hope the university will use this success to inspire others to follow their lead.”

Institutions with a Gold award can, after three years, apply for a platinum award – evidencing a sustained commitment to public engagement as leaders in the field – although no universities are currently eligible for this level.

Notes to editors

About the NCCPE

The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) is internationally recognised for its work supporting and inspiring universities to engage with the public. It works to change perspectives, promote innovation, and nurture and celebrate excellence. It also champions meaningful engagement that makes a real and measurable difference to people’s lives.

The NCCPE is supported by UK Research and Innovation, the devolved Higher Education funding bodies, and Wellcome, and has been hosted by the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol since it was established in 2008.

Public engagement describes the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public. Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.

You can find out more about the NCCPE at


Grant Hill

Senior Public Affairs Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768