Cultural Engagement Strategy

2024 to 2029

Two students looking at artwork in an exhibition.


Everyone engages with some form of culture every day and Leeds is a powerhouse of cultural activity. As a public institution, the University of Leeds has a key role to play in supporting and working with the cultural sector for the benefit of our students, staff, artists, communities and audiences.

Research demonstrates that arts, culture, heritage, and creative practices have the power to change lives, enhancing the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities alike – all while boosting the economy.

Our Cultural Engagement Strategy explains how we aim to engage staff, students, artists and local communities in the arts, culture, heritage and creative industries to deliver meaningful experiences across campus and beyond.

Transcript for the Cultural Engagement Strategy video (opens in a new window)

Our vision

Our vision is a thriving, dynamic and interconnected cultural ecology across the Leeds city region operating in rich dialogue and collaboration with the University of Leeds.

Our mission

Our mission is to mobilise the power of culture, creativity and artmaking to connect people and foster positive change. We will leverage the University’s exceptional research and innovation to tackle pressing social challenges and promote sustainable cultural and creative development.

Core themes

An artist reviewing printed materials in a learning space.

Three core themes underpin our strategy:  

Equity, diversity and inclusion

We will champion and invest in a richer, broader and more inclusive range of cultural activities and practices that embrace co-creation, participation, civic engagement and decolonisation, and operate at multiple scales and across different contexts to foster social justice.

Environmental sustainability

We will support the development of creative practice that engages our audiences with what is happening to our planet, and take opportunities to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis, working towards net zero, increasing biodiversity and promoting sustainability.

Coherence, distinctiveness and visibility

We will foster greater cohesion across our rich cultural offer to our students, staff and wider communities, helping us to raise the profile and distinctiveness of our brand and better understand and speak to key audiences.

Aims and objectives

Three people sat around a table using paints and pencils to create art.

We aim to:

1. Support research development and knowledge exchange with the cultural sector

Our role as catalysts, connectors, convenors and curators places us in a unique position to bring together and support applied, interdisciplinary and impactful research with our academic community and cultural partners around Leeds, the UK and the globe.

 We will:

  • Connect and support research by facilitating impactful, interdisciplinary research collaborations between academic and cultural partners locally and globally, leveraging policy opportunities in areas like cultural data, health, and climate research. 
  • Identify and secure funding through collaborative opportunities to benefit research staff, support the development of applications for research funding, secure more research grants, and showcase the social and cultural impacts of researchers’ projects.
  • Lead and advocate for culture by providing strategic leadership in cultural research, supporting knowledge exchange, promoting professional development within the cultural sectors, contributing to the UN Sustainability Development Goals, and influencing policymakers to bolster the local and regional cultural infrastructure.

2. Support the delivery of a transformative student education

We are dedicated to engaging with our student communities to maximise the benefits of cultural activities in student life.

We will:

  • Enhance student experience by engaging with student communities through cultural activities to support wellbeing, enhance campus and community experiences, and improve employability.
  • Innovate in education by improving student education with experiential learning, creative methodologies, and related curriculum developments.
  • Embed cultural opportunities by integrating cultural and creative activities within the curriculum and co-curriculum in collaboration with cultural partners to boost student experiences and job prospects.
  • Expand partnerships by diversifying and expanding cultural partnerships, including new collaborations with the National Poetry Centre and Bradford 2025, and strengthen existing ones with organisations like Opera North and Leeds Museums and Galleries.

3. Enhance student and staff experience

Cultural activity and engagement is essential to providing a healthy, safe and inclusive environment – enriching experiences for students and staff and creating a sense of belonging and community. It also conjures a creative buzz on our campus, brings our cultural and public spaces to life, and makes our working environment more joyous, interesting and meaningful.

We will:

  • Foster a vibrant campus culture by leading and supporting initiatives that bring high-quality arts and cultural activities to campus, creating a lively and engaging environment.
  • Enhance visibility and engagement by promoting and showcasing cultural activities on campus, effectively signposting them to students and staff, and involving students in their design and programming.
  • Encourage innovative programming by supporting bold and innovative cultural activity to enhance our distinctiveness and raise our profile.

4. Nurture audience, community and public engagement through cultural activities

Cultural activity and engagement will help our university to become a more civic-minded institution that benefits from a stronger, more positive and more distinctive reputation in the city region and beyond.

We will:

  • Cohere and strengthen our cultural offer by creating a new web portal and ticketing / box office system.
  • Research and develop our strategic audiences and conduct tailored marketing and engagement activities to broaden and diversify those who engage with our cultural activities on and off campus.
  • Stimulate and lead institutional projects that draw on our research to engage our diverse local communities and enhance the public realm, making it safer, more inclusive and more creative.