New European Commission report on university-community engagement

August 15, 2020

The European Commission has published a new report entitled Community Engagement in Higher Education: Trends, Practices and Policies, prepared by the EC’s Network of Experts on the Social Dimension of Education and Training (NESET). The report was prepared by the TEFCE project coordinator and Expert Team member Thomas Farnell, and the report provides many references to the TEFCE project, the TEFCE Toolbox and the project’s project recommendations. The report is available HERE.

Based on a comprehensive literature review, the report argues that universities play a crucial role in responding to societal needs and can further enhance their societal impact at the local, national or international level through community engagement. The report proposes a broad definition of community engagement in higher education, whereby:

  • engagement refers to the range of ways in which university staff, students and management interact with external communities in mutually beneficial ways, as a part of teaching and research or as a part of other projects and joint initiatives;
  • community is defined as ‘communities of place, identity or interest’ thus including, among others, public authorities, businesses, schools, civil society and citizens;    
  • societal needs addressed through community engagement refer to all political, economic, cultural, social, technological and environmental factors that influence the quality of life in society.

The question of how universities can contribute to social and economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 period is likely to be at the top of policymakers’ agendas in the years to come. The arguments presented in the report regarding the dimensions, good practices and benefits of community engagement will be highly relevant to policymakers and university leaders developing plans for the recovery and development of higher education in the post-crisis period.

The report was written on behalf of NESET by Thomas Farnell (Institute for the Development of Education, Croatia) and peer reviewed by Ellen Hazelkorn (BH Associates; Technological University Dublin, Ireland) and Dragana Avramov (NESET Scientific Coordinator).

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