11 SES 16 A, Improving Higher Education With University Social Responsibility (USR)
The role of universities in society has undergone severe change in the last years, leading to the fact that universities should impact the world around them more and more, contribute to solving societal problems or promote inclusive education. The European University Association EUA states: “Universities are expected to establish knowledge transfer to society at large and industry in particular, to increase support to the development of their regions ... engage in policy-making to meet the challenges now facing the European Union...”. The symposium offers insights into a specific field change and improvement in higher education from a European perspective, in which the presenters have conducted research: University Social Responsibility (USR) (Dima, 2015; Schober et al. 2016).
The symposium involves presentations from universities which are part of European projects, which focus on USR from Portugal, Austria and Scotland. However, all presentations have a global and European perspective and offer students a voice.
In the first presentation, social responsibility is linked to social justice and the results of the ESSA project are presented, which focus on students’ perspectives on audits of social responsibility and data from a longitudinal study. In the second presentation, a critical analysis of USR frameworks is presented, dividing frameworks into four categories: ideological, rhetoric, practical and epistemological. In the third presentation, social responsibility is linked with student engagement. Results of the European STEP project are presented, which offer insights into a European mapping of frameworks for student engagement recognition. The last presentation gives a common framework to all presentations and presents the Benchmark Standards for University Social Responsibility across Europe. It ends with recommendations how these standards could enhance the quality of higher education institutions in the future.
This symposium shows – using the USR approach – how the discourse about social responsibility and student engagement as well as quality standards in this area have emerged and advanced in the last years. The topic of University Social Responsibility is quite new to education, but has enormous potential as a quality-guiding principle, especially from the students’ perspectives. It leads to a visibility of social action and research, which again links to civic engagement and the role of universities in society. However, USR processes of the future need to be planned and linked with other quality assuring processes, like auditing, monitoring and diversity management.
- Dima, G. 2015. “University Social responsibility: A Common European Reference Framework”. - Schober, B., L. Brandt, M. Kollmayer, and C. Spiel 2016. „Overcoming the ivory tower: Transfer and societal responsibility as crucial aspects of the Bildung-Psychology approach.” European Journal of Development Psychology13(6): 636-651.
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