The Beltane partnership was originally formed in 2008, when the universities in Edinburgh were awarded over £1 million of funding to become an RCUK Beacon for Public Engagement. From 2012-2017, the Network was funded by the four universities in Edinburgh to provide a central team based at The University of Edinburgh. This funding has now ended, but the partnership continues, in keeping with the pooling and collaborative approaches that are characteristic strengths of the Scottish higher education sector. In 2018 the four partner universities signed a Manifesto underlining their support for the continued collaboration.
What is Beltane?
The Beltane Network has prided itself on leading the way in changing the culture of public engagement in universities. For a long time public engagement was considered to be an ‘add-on’, perhaps dissemination at the end of a research project, the ‘touchy-feely’ stuff. Beltane has successfully embedded public engagement in the four universities in Edinburgh, brought together researchers, and acted as a point of contact for a number of organisations (notably the Scottish Parliament, the Fringe and a range of third sector organisations).
What does this mean for Napier researchers?
One of Beltane’s successes has been in working with universities to create their own in-house public engagement teams. I started at Napier in a brand new role in 2015 as Public Engagement Officer, a position which would not have been possible without the groundwork and support of Beltane colleagues and Fellows. Since Napier, with Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt now have in-house public engagement support, there is no longer the need for a staffed Beltane team, and funding has been redirected to internal public engagement activity. The Beltane partnership still exists as a cooperative, and will carry on with much of its activities as before, but these will be provided by the public engagement teams at each of the partner universities. In essence, it’s very much business as usual.