The IPR launches pilot Bath Policy Engagement Academy

Posted in: Data, politics and policy, Evidence and policymaking, Policy Engagement, Public services, UK politics

Amy Thompson is the Head of Policy Programmes and Communications at the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR). Amy also leads the Bath Policy Engagement Academy and University of Bath's policy engagement work. This blog has also been published on the UPEN website.


In the 11 years I have worked in policy engagement at the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR), I have seen across the UK Higher Education sector sustained and significant growth in policy engagement activities. At this time, the Universities Policy Engagement network currently has over 120 UK university members. Each institution has its own policy engagement approach and there is considerable variation between types of UK policy engagement bodies on what they do, with what combination of resources, and why. Some universities work internally to influence research capacity, some foster external networks to gather intelligence on demand for evidence, and others focus on deeper relationships and influencing agenda setting.

This rapid growth of new initiatives, to bridge policy and academia in the UK have come from both within the university sector, and from different parts of the UK policy ecosystem. Academic initiatives have included the University and Policy Engagement Network (UPEN), the Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE) consortium of university and policy players, and Transforming Evidence, which seeks to bridge disciplines. Government and parliament initiatives have included the Knowledge Exchange Unit in parliament (with a network of 700 knowledge mobilisers from universities) and the 13 What Works Centres overseen by the Cabinet Office. There have also been funder investments, such as the Research England Policy Support Fund, which provides £150 million over five years for universities to invest in public policy engagement, and a pilot local acceleration fund launched by the ESRC. 

The combination of institutional growth in policy engagement activities, as well as the development of academic, government and funder initiatives are evidence of an evolving policy engagement landscape. HE institutions are responding through an assortment of activities and engagement plans, yet, there is evidence that policy engagement without clear goals and strategic coordination can be ‘rudderless’ and ineffective.

In addition, here at the University of Bath, we experience what many colleagues across the UK do, the geographical challenge of being a regional university, with the challenges of access to policymakers in Whitehall. We are working to engage with regional policymakers and have witnessed the huge success of some of our colleagues leading pioneering activities between their institutions and their local councils.

So how best to find your institutional place, or space in this ever-shifting landscape?

In response the IPR has launched a pilot Bath Policy Engagement Academy, which we hope will build greater capacity, capability and routes to regional, national and international policy impact as well as to provide policy engagement training and coaching for our researcher community.

The pilot, which is funded from a combination of UKRI Policy Support Fund, ESRC IAA and EPSRC IAA, was initially funded for 10 months, and has now secured funding until July 2025.

The activities that the pilot BPEA will enable include:


  •  The creation of online policy engagement guides.
  • The introduction of selective, cohort policy engagement training for ECRs or those who have moved to new areas of research.
  • Introduction of 1-2-1 policy impact coaching for selective research bids/applications.
  • To introduce improved and scaled internal cascade mechanisms for external policy engagement opportunities.
  • To more clearly signpost the university access point for senior policymakers looking to connect with Bath academics.
  • To expand our IPR Policy Fellowship Programme offer via a new specialist strand on health and to focus on the needs of regional policymakers.


About our policy engagement guides:

Our policy engagement guides are aimed at Bath academics across all disciplines and at all levels. The intention is to provide a resource, bespoke to Bath, which breaks down the complex world of policymaking to give academics clearer guidance and signposting to the routes and mechanisms for policy engagement.

The guides introduce policy engagement at different spatial levels, from local and regional engagement, to national and international and highlight how to evidence impact through policy engagement activities. Other guides cover how to respond to government consultations and evidence requests, engaging with Governmental Areas of Research Interest, and undertaking academic policy fellowships and placements.

We have also included practical guidance with examples of academics at Bath who have ‘real-world’ experiences of successful policy engagement. And, we have found that these have been some of the most popular pages and have helped to further demystify the process and illustrate the practicalities of policy engagement.


IPR Policy Fellowship Programme

For external policymakers, a key component of the BPEA is expanding our Policy Fellowship Programme (PFP). Over the ten years we have run the PFP we have welcomed hundreds of senior policymakers to Bath – and this academic year has seen us welcome a record 40 senior policy fellows. We run an umbrella Policy Fellowship stream and specialist streams on AI and Net Zero. The introduction of the Health specialist stream is in response to the needs of policymakers and our portfolio of health experts at Bath. Our new regionally focused policy fellowship aims to build better local connections between our academics and regional policymakers, so that our research can better inform and contribute to the needs of our region.

All of this has involved the support, and trust, of senior management here at Bath to help drive this pilot, as well as the hard work of my team in the delivery of our activities. It also depends on academics from across the university working in collaboration with us, and wanting to engage in the opportunities we share. And it also relies on policymakers trusting the quality of our work and networking that we provide. It is a wide ecosystem with many actors, but one I really think is driving change.

We believe there is a real opportunity through the Bath Policy Engagement Academy to further widen collaborations between our researchers and policymakers and we hope this will enable the greater uptake of our research for evidence-informed policy. If you would like to learn more about our experiences, or have reflections on what we’ve put together, please get in touch.


All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of the IPR, nor of the University of Bath.


Posted in: Data, politics and policy, Evidence and policymaking, Policy Engagement, Public services, UK politics


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response