11 SES 16 A, Improving Higher Education With University Social Responsibility (USR)
Although University Social Responsibility (USR) is not a topic of pure innovation, it has been gaining momentum, as shown by the emergence of USR frameworks and networks worldwide (Dima, 2015; Menezes et al. 2017; Wallace, Resch, 2017). In this paper, we propose a critical analysis of USR frameworks from all over the world. The analysis shows the existence of four distinct natures of approaching the social responsibility of higher education institutions (HEIs). The first nature is ideological, and encompasses personal, social and institutional values, ideologies, and political standpoints, in other words, what is understood as the mission(s) of each HEI. The second nature is rhetorical, and it has to do with the production and dissemination of discourse on USR, the formulation of USR policies and the development of communication devices – to show or report how socially responsible an HEI is. The third nature is practical, and consists of practices, procedures, governance and management, processes and impacts of USR, such as the following: socially responsible extension practices, socially responsible research practices, socially responsible teaching practices, accountability and transparency, rights and fair practices, and environment and sustainability. The fourth nature is epistemological, and regards the production and transmission of knowledge, including the access to knowledge and education. Two different approaches are distinguishable here: (i) externalisation, i.e., knowledge, data and results are shared with the community, and an open access to research is advocated; (ii) internalisation: knowledge is co-produced with and within the community, the participation of under-represented groups in higher education is strongly encouraged, and devices for the recognition of prior learning are developed and implemented in HEIs. These natures are not mutually exclusive, all the four natures are very often present in frameworks but with distinct centrality and intensity. As an example, we can say that the Chilean framework “Universidad Construye País” is mainly ideological, since it takes the principles and values as the “sun” illuminating all the university activities, and the ISO 26000 Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility – on which several European frameworks, for instance, are based upon –, is mostly practical, as it gives primacy to governance and management, which appear as transversal and hanging over the traditional missions of HEIs. We argue that this analysis is important to problematise the way we conceptualise USR, and also the very distinct ways we are trying to frame or assess it – in very different contexts and HEIs.
- Dima, G. 2015. “University Social responsibility: A Common European Reference Framework”. - Menezes, I., Coelho, M. & Amorim, J. P. (2017). Social and Public Responsibility, Universities. In P. N. Teixeira & Jung-Cheol Shin (Eds.), Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions. Springer. [DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-9553-1_361-1] - Wallace, M. and K. Resch 2017. “Guidelines for Universities to engage in Social Responsibility.” www.postgraduatecenter.at/unibility.
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