Tearing down the Ivory Tower

22 May 2013

Lunchtime seminar on how to bridge the divide between the University and the broader community  (L-R): Dr Paul Manners, Director of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Dr Anna Kingston, CARL Coordinator at UCC and Trevor Holmes, Vice-President for External Relations, UCC.

The concept of the university moving out into the community and the community moving into the university was under discussion in UCC recently.


Paul Manners, Associate Professor in Public Engagement at University of West England (Bristol), was invited to share his experiences of how UK policy initiatives are contributing to dismantling the image of the university as an ivory tower. Paul is also Director of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) and his involvement has been instrumental in creating strong links between academia and civil society in the UK. His visit to UCC was seen as a step towards encouraging and supporting existing public engagement in the Irish context.

The visit included a smaller workshop in the morning, which sought to brainstorm current and potential future activities around public engagement in UCC, and a well-attended public lunchtime lecture.

Speaking at the morning session, Trevor Holmes, Vice-President for External Relations in UCC, acknowledged the need for more structured and organised forms of public engagement in Ireland:

“Public engagement is a key strategic initiative and there are already many excellent examples in UCC, such as student and staff participation in community based research, student volunteering and service based learning. We do not sufficiently co-ordinate these activities and positively demonstrate our capacity and excellence to the outside world. We must build on our existing strengths in these areas and propagate them across the university by providing sustainable support”.


The work of CARL (Community - Academic Research Links) was highlighted as one of these successful initiatives, which have seen students and community groups collaborating on more than 20 research topics over the last three years. CARL invites community groups to bring research questions to UCC with the aim of finding students who are interested in pursuing this research in partnership with them. This way, the community groups are facilitated in interacting with the university and as a consequence the students and their academic supervisors become engaged with issues that matter to the public.


The public lunchtime lecture continued on the same theme as Paul shared his personal journey from being a secondary school English teacher to becoming the NCCPE-director. His talk was underpinned by his passion for changing the way we learn and breaking down the formal barriers that divide academics and people in the communities:

“There is an increased demand for accountability from our universities and as citizens we deserve to get something back from our investments. An engaged university has to build on these four components: Public Engagement with Research, Engaged Teaching, Knowledge Exchange and Social Responsibility”.


For more information about the NCCPE please go to link

For further information on CARL, see link


Civic & Community Engagement

Comhpháirteachas Cathartha agus Pobail

University College Cork, Cork, Ireland,