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Engaging Opportunities

  • Project leader(s): Rick Holliman
  • Theme: Externally funded projects
  • Faculty: STEM
  • Status: Archived
  • Dates: January 2013 to December 2016

Engaging Opportunities was funded by RCUK from 2013-2016 as one of 12 School-University Partnerships (SUPI). A booklet summarising the key lessons learnt from the 12 SUPIs, illustrated by taster case studies, is freely available: Lessons from the RCUK-funded School-University Partnerships Initiative.

Executive Summary

Engaging Opportunities involved a partnership between the Open University and the Denbigh Teaching School Alliance in Milton Keynes. The final report from our project, which includes links to resources to support the development of school-university activities, is freely available: Engaging Opportunities: Connecting young people with contemporary research and researchers.

SUPI wristbandsInformed by action research, our partnership was designed to create structured, strategic, sustainable and equitable mechanisms for effective school-university engagement with research.

Over four years our project team created engaging opportunities for 11 schools and more than 6,577 people within Milton Keynes. Students and teachers engaged with authentic practices of contemporary and inspiring research in a range of academic disciplines.

Through this work we offered opportunities to participate in mutual learning and develop relevant and useful skills and competencies in how to access, assess, analyse and respond to contemporary research.

Engaging opportunities was a collective and cooperative journey involving students, teachers and researchers. The journey can be characterised by our action research-informed approach; learning through doing (Holliman et al. 2017).

Our successes and failures are down to a small, dedicated group of university academics, teachers and support staff, with a supporting cast of many more (see the inside cover of the final report; Holliman et al. 2018), all committed to improving the aspirations and life chances of children and young people in Milton Keynes.

Our core aims for our RCUK-funded partnership remained the same throughout the four-year project. Put simply, young people are key ‘publics’ for research and they should have a voice in how research is shaped and framed. Informed by a shared mission for social justice we have engaged students from different backgrounds whilst addressing the relevance and impact of research to them.

We worked to generate awareness of the nature and challenges of contemporary research. Further, we have worked to foster and extend a culture of reflective practice around school-university engagement with research; and to embed school-university engagement with research within the OU’s and DTSA’s strategic planning on a sustainable basis.

Since the conclusion of the project we have coordinated a number of legacy projects. These projects have been built upon the links developed between the two institutions and a mutually understanding as to the benefits of school-university collaboration.


Engaging Opportunities was funded through the RCUK School University Partnership Initiative (EP/K027786/1).


If you would like any further information about the project please contact  

Image: Mark Russell