Purpose – This work aims at investigating the construct of online public engagement by identifying the modalities universities use to give visibility to their approach on institutional websites. Design/methodology/approach – An exploratory factor analysis outlined the principle dimensions that explain online public engagement starting from the analysis of a sample of American and English universities. To finish, a t-test shows the differences in the approaches to online public engagement in the sample universities. Findings – The results of this analysis show that the construct of public engagement used for online communication has been investigated through three dimensions and that the American and English universities have different approaches in its declination. Research limitations/applications – The analysis was conducted on a sample of American and English universities, however the study underlines the fact that the traditional approaches to public engagement can assume different connotations for online communication. Practical implications – Coherent organization of the online communication of public engagement activities can reinforce the perception of the university in the eyes of both internal and external stakeholders. For this reason research offers interesting input for evaluating which kind of strategy should be adopted for online public engagement in line with the desired positioning and as defined by the governing bodies of the university institutions. However, the universities still need to institutionalize public engagement. Originality/value – This work constitutes the first attempt to investigate public engagement in the university context through the web, using quantitative methodologies in order to highlight the different strategic orientations and operative declinations.
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