22 SES 07 B, International Perspectives on Professional Development
The term third mission (3M) is usually defined as a residual and fuzzy concept in contrast to teaching and research, covering all the activities beyond the first two (Vorley & Nelles, 2008; Görason et al., 2009). In this sense, this concept is multifaceted as it incorporates a varied range of activities involving the generation, use, application and exploitation of knowledge and other university capabilities outside academic environments (Tuunainen, 2005).
The main feature of the 3M is the relationship between universities and society at large (non-academic partners). Therefore, the concept is strongly connected with the interaction and mutual contribution between universities and the rest of society, with the perceived need to engage with societal demands and link the university with its socio-economic context and, hence, to contribute to the regional development agendas (Ćulum et al., 2013). In this sense, 3M activities arises from the need of HEIs to contribute to society in a meaningful way through knowledge and technology transfer, lifelong learning, entrepreneurship or exchanges of workers with business, amongst other.
Consequently, although there are many forms in which universities interact with society at large, 3M activities are usually classified in relation to research (technology transfer and innovation), to teaching (lifelong learning/continuing education), as well as university involvement in social and cultural life. Additionally, this variety of activities comprises different types of actors, many constituent parts of universities and requires different structures and mechanisms for it to become a reality (Mora et al., 2012).
As a contrast, in Latin American universities is infrequent to use this term of 3M in higher education. Instead, they use the concept of University Extension, and to a lesser extend, Outreach to society or environment. The term of University Extension has a greater connotation to 3M approaches aimed at cultural diffusion and social services for disadvantaged groups. That is, it is understood as working with disadvantaged or less privileged sectors of the population through cultural dissemination and technical assistance (Arocena & Sutz 2005; Vega et al., 2011).
Whatever the used term in different contexts, extension activities, 3M activities, or others, it is widely acknowledge that the importance of these activities in universities has increased as the benefits of close cooperation between them and external stakeholders have been increasingly recognised (Davey et al., 2011).
In fact, the concept of 3M itself has been widely reviewed and debated considering even the need of introducing other terms as third stream or fourth mission (Kretz & Sá, 2013). In this paper, we considered extension activities (Latin American context) or 3M activities (European context) as a transversal an essential component of any university’s role, whatever it is considered as a mission itself or as integrated in the central missions of universities, that is, teaching and research. From our perspective, universities have the duty of serving society as a way to paying back its efforts and renew the original contract between universities and their regions.
Considering the needs and mutual benefits of universities cooperating and establishing links with their regions and society at large, the objectives of this paper are:
- To analyse and compare similarities and differences between Latin America and Europe in relation to (1) the political agenda promoting 3M activities at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and (2) the activities developed by HEIs in relation to research (technology transfer and innovation), to teaching (lifelong learning/continuing education), as well as university involvement in social and cultural life (social engagement).
- To analyse cases of good practices in 3M activities developed by Latin American and European HEIs in order to provide a framework about the main factors for their success.
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