We are proud to announce that the 2020 Rome Ministerial communique for the European Higher Education Area, adopted by ministers responsible for higher education on 19 November 2020, has for the first time included community engagement in higher education within its priorities. This development is a direct result of proposals made by the TEFCE project through TEFCE Expert Ninoslav Šćukanec Schmidt, who co-chairs the EHEA Advisory Groupfor the Social Dimension.
In the newly adopted EHEA Rome ministerial communique adopted on 19 November 2020, community engagement is directly mentioned under the section ‘An innovative EHEA' (p.6) as follows:
'We support our higher education institutions in intensifying their search for solutions to the challenges our societies face. The social, human and creative sciences and arts must continue to play their vital role, giving depth to our lives and enabling us to understand and act in a changing world. Our higher education institutions must engage with their communities to undertake mutually beneficial and socially responsible joint activities.'
Additionally, the EHEA Rome ministerial communique includes a special set of Principles and Guidelines to Strengthen the Social Dimension of Higher Education. Within this document, community engagementis included as principle 9:
Principle 9: Higher education institutions should ensure that community engagement in higher education promotes diversity, equity and inclusion.
Guidlines: Community engagement should be considered as a process whereby higher education institutions engage with external community stakeholders to undertake joint activities that can be mutually beneficial. Like social dimension policies, community engagement should be embedded in core missions of higher education. It should engage with teaching and learning, research, service and knowledge exchange, students and staff and management of higher education institutions. Such engagement provides a holistic basis on which universities can address abroad range of societal needs, including those of vulnerable, disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, while enriching their teaching, research and other core functions.
Community stakeholders (e.g. local authorities, cultural organisations, non-governmental organisations, businesses, citizens) should be able to meaningfully engage with higher education actors through open dialogue. This will enable genuine university-community partnerships, which can effectively address social and democratic challenges.