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Watermark FAQs

If you've reached this page, you are interested in finding out more about the Watermark project and have some questions. Hopefully all the information you need is below, but if it isn't please get in touch with Dave Smith, Public Engagement Officer and he'll be happy to help


The logo for the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement



What is the Watermark? 

The Watermark is an award granted to institutions, faculties and research centres for their strategic support for public engagement, and their ability to demonstrate a commitment to improvement. It is assessed by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).  

Just as a watermark runs through the fabric of a document, the Watermark indicates that engagement runs through the fabric of the institution.It is awarded at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels 

Who are the NCCPE? 

The NCCPE are funded by UKRI (the umbrella organisation for research councils) to support public engagement across the sector. They provide support and guidance to higher education institutions and funders.

They also provide strategic input to the Knowledge Exchange Framework, the Research Excellence Framework and more. They run the sector’s annual Public Engagement Conference and provide training, resources, and funding for culture change projects. You can read copies of their journal Research for All here and visit their website here

Why are we doing it? 

The University has made increasing commitments to public engagement over the past ten years, investing in spaces, events such as European Researchers’ Night and other resources to help researchers connect with the public. Our next step is the development of the systems, processes and strategic thinking to embed engagement across the organisation. 

Across our sector, public engagement is being increasingly expected in funding applications and reporting to Government, with a newer emphasis on strategic engagement noticeable in the Knowledge Exchange Framework (2020) metrics. The Watermark process is an opportunity for the University to work with the NCCPE to define what public engagement is at Huddersfield, what we are doing well, what we could be doing better, and how we can do this. The resulting plans and strategies can then be used for future funding calls. 

Our 2020 KEF submission demonstrates that public and community engagement is an area of activity that requires significant development

Didn’t I already fill this out? 

In 2019 the University conducted a smaller survey to assess staff views of public engagement and how things were working. The results of this survey were shared with senior leaders and helped support two things: 

  1. The creation of the University Knowledge Exchange Group (which has a specific remit to look after public engagement)
  2. This application for the Watermark

The Watermark is different to the first survey for two reasons.

  1. It includes working with the NCCPE and employs their 360° analysis as part of a more in depth process
  2. It will result in an action plan and a commitment by the University to organisational change

Who do they want to hear from? 

Everyone at the University!  

The NCCPE will be speaking to staff, students and people outside of the University (see below on the process) and using this consultation to frame conversations with senior leaders and the development of an action plan. They are interested in speaking to academic and professional services staff as the Watermark will look at the University as a whole, not just in relation to research. If you work (in any role) or study at the University, they want to hear from you. 

What happens to the survey data?

Anything you submit will go directly to the NCCPE and you don’t have to share any more information about yourself than you are comfortable doing. The NCCPE will not share any information with us that can identify individuals. This is important as we want you to be as honest as possible. The NCCPE will report back to the University team about the overall results and work with us on what to do next. The survey itself has more information about how the NCCPE will manage your data. 

What does the process will involve? 

The NCCPE are working with the University over a period of nine months. A small, cross-institution working group is managing the process, led by Susan Cooke and overseen by the University Knowledge Exchange Group and the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise. 


These are the steps of the process:

  1. During the Spring, staff and students at the University will be filling out the survey. The NCCPE are also running some virtual site visits to interview some senior staff and partners that the working group has identified  
  2. Using all the collected data, the NCCPE will produce some recommendations of what we need to do to achieve the Watermark  
  3. The University will then develop an action plan. Staff and students will be given the chance to input into this process  
  4. The NCCPE will return for more site visits to discuss the first draft of the action plan and speak to more staff and partners  
  5. The University will submit the final action plan for assessment before the start of the 2021/22 academic year to be assessed. The results will be announced at the end of November 

What will happen after the Watermark?

At the end of the process, the University will end up with two things: 

  • The results of the watermark award 
  • An action plan  

Regardless of the outcome of the award, the University has committed to the development of a Public Engagement strategy, which will be led by the action plan. Consultation with staff, students and externals will commence from the start of the 2021/22 academic year with the aim to produce a strategy over a 12 month period 

Who is on the Watermark coordination team?

The Watermark process is being managed by a small cross-institution team headed by Sue Cooke (Interim Head of Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange, University of Huddersfield & CEO, 3M Buckley Innovation Centre)

The others are:

  • Dr Leanne Monchuk (School of Health and Human Sciences)
  • Tim Oscroft (Marketing Communications and Student Recruitment)
  • Dr Liz Pente (School of Music, Humanities and Media)
  • David Smith (Heritage Quay)
  • Deb Wills (Research and Enterprise)
The awards winner 2012, 13, 14, 15
University of the year 2013
QS 4 Star Logo
Athena Swan Bronze Award

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