Public Engagement

York St John has a long history of public engagement. Since its inception in 1841, the University has been engaged with the community in a variety of ways, a tradition which has grown over the years.

The term public engagement is now widely used by universities (particularly those that are research-led) but has not been widely used at YSJ. But that is set to change. Before we go on, here is one definition that seems to capture the main ideas:

"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” (NCCPE).

This definition recognises the role of the university in providing resources and working as an ‘anchor institution’ but goes further in terms of underlining the mutual recognition and reciprocal contribution that universities and communities make. The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement offers 5 strong arguments  for why PE matters: accountability, values and purpose, trust, relevance and responsiveness.

In recognition of the work that York St John does, which is already recognised in its Gold Social Enterprise Mark status, the University has signed up to the NCCPE Engage Watermark. Their Edge Tool  calibrates the level of public engagement that UK HEIs currently are at. It is a developmental tool which looks at ways in which we can maximise engagement at all levels of the University amongst staff and students. 

Public Engagement at YSJ

Please note that this cannot be a complete list nor can it possibly do justice to some excellent projects. It is not in rank order but some of the most significant/topical are towards the top. It is intended to highlight the examples that I am aware of. If I don’t know about it, tell me. 


Mental health co-located hospital

Mental Health clinic – counselling programme

Converge: programmes, theatre company, choir

Prison Theatre project: performances, workshops, visits to campus, etc. 

Community theatre and young audiences

Motivation, Performance and Wellbeing Research Group: media, training, research, consultancy, dissemination

Research: e.g. mental health, body image, cyber(bullying), perfectionism, conference papers, downloads, briefings and masterclasses, media broadcasts and print and online media

University of Sanctuary: ESOL/EAL, drop-ins, support for refugee communities (OT), sanctuary scholarships, conference, liaison with City of Sanctuary, RAY and Refugee Council, sponsor of Refugee Week

Community use of Sports Park (£34K): dementia drop-in, refugee sports, homeless sessions, community allotments, orchard, beehives, sensory garden, new ponds for biodiversity, tree planting with Rotary, Sporting memories, fish and chip Fridays, flood contingency scheme for ‘flooded’ local teams

Students’ Union: fundraising, (>£25K per annum), events such as Big Student Sleepout, work in the Groves,

Community use of YSJ facilities including conferences (£105K contribution)

Stonewall: LGBT events and information dissemination

Autism: conference, training for businesses, research, CYC working group, York Parent Carer Forum

David Hope RE Centre – resource in Fountains

Spark:York theatre space ,community arts practice

Senior leadership engagement with civic bodies e.g. Make it York, York Human Rights City, York Cares

Pint of Science York, Hull and Leeds

STEM events, participation at regional events

Advantage CPD: military human, bullying, body image work

Dementia champions training working as part of Dementia Action Alliance

Sustainability work: solar panels, plans for reduction of single use plastics, recycling

Events on campus: Aesthetica Short Film Festival, York Literature Festival, York Mediale, York Bloom!, Northern Poetry Roadshow, film screenings for third sector organisations, Fairplay Goalball Tournament, Art and Design Degree Showcase, Festival of Ideas, numerous other conferences, York Business Week, Press Business Awards,

WP: Higher York, NCOP, work with military families, Service Children’s Progression Alliance,  student carers, outreach with Green Apples, Yor Student Journey, residentials (Y10, 12)

Volunteering: hosting York Youth Sector Networking event, variety of projects supporting mentoring, partnership with overseas organisations, projects with charities and social enterprises,

Student ambassadors: mentoring and reaching out to community

Public talks: Ebor, Conversations that Matter, inaugural lectures, ‘The business of …’

Liaison with other organisations nationally and regionally: NHS trusts, Social Enterprise Yorkshire and Humber, People Needing People, One Planet York, Yor Wellbeing, 

Business School Consultancy clinic for SMGs, local businesses and charities

Programmes for local authorities such as Trauma and Attachment for CYC

York Body Project

Theatre projects with Theatre Royal and other institutions

Pollination Project

Cardiac rehabilitation


This does not include volunteering hours for staff or students (not currently collected) or number of staff Governors of schools and colleges or a range of sometimes ‘one-off’ projects with third sector organisations.

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