Director appointed to lead National Public Engagement Centre
4 March 2008
Paul Manners has been appointed Director of the new National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), which is funded by HEFCE, Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Wellcome Trust. The Centre is aimed at improving links and dialogue between universities and the public.
The Bristol-based Centre is a partnership between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol. It is at the heart of a major new initiative aimed at co-ordinating universities’ best practice in public engagement and deepening the social impact and relevance of their work.
Paul’s background makes him uniquely qualified for the Director role. He spent five years as an English teacher in secondary schools in East London, where he gained a Master’s degree in the use of media to support learning. His passion for communication and learning led him to the Open University (OU), where he worked for 12 years, collaborating with academic teams on a range of award-winning broadcast and interactive projects. These included the OU’s very popular BBC2 series about the Romans in Britain and the long-running popular science strand, Rough Science.
Since 2001 he has worked at the BBC Learning division as executive producer of a variety of major outreach campaigns, including the BBC’s People’s War project which used the 60th anniversary of the end of WW2 as a hook to capture 50,000 online reminiscences about the war, in partnership with museums, libraries and age agencies. He also headed a variety of environmental projects linked to natural history, such as Springwatch and Blue Planet, leading a partnership of over 80 environmental organisations and signposting over a million people to festivals, hands-on events and volunteering projects around the UK.
Paul is currently chair of the National Trust’s advisory panel on learning, and an adviser to a range of national organisations including the Woodland Trust, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the media regulator, OFCOM. He took up his responsibilities at the beginning of March and is now beginning the recruitment of the rest of the NCCPE team.
UWE’s Vice-Chancellor Steve West said, “It is an honour to welcome such an experienced communicator and public engagement champion to lead the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement. We are looking forward to Paul’s leadership of the National Centre to have a major impact on universities’ work with their communities.”
The two universities in Bristol have already worked together on a number of highly successful public engagement initiatives, from the Bristol Natural History Festival to the biennial Science Alive! festival in the city's Broadmead shopping centre. They are also involved in Science City Bristol, which aims to enhance the city-region's culture of science and innovation and build a world-leading environment where technology and business can thrive.
Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, said: “Many British universities – including the two in Bristol – have a strong track record in public engagement, but there’s a big appetite for more and better. Under Paul’s direction, the National Co-ordinating Centre will explore with universities, their partners and the public, how best Higher Education and communities can learn from one another and pursue common interests.”