22 SES 12 C, Civic Engagement in Higher Education Teaching and Learning
Recent decades have borne witness to a closer alignment between higher education and society with many higher education institutions embracing community engagement (Hazelkorn, 2016). Community engagement refers to partnerships between universities and their external communities encompassing public, business and civil society, to address societal needs. The broader societal contribution of higher education is now re-emerging as a European policy priority with the demand for higher education to address societal challenges (European Commission, 2017). The increasing focus on the community engagement agenda in higher education has led to a range of initiatives at the international level to assess and support community engagement (Benneworth, 2013). Yet, with the exception of the Carnegie Foundation Elective Classification for Community Engagement in the U.S., most attempts to externally assess community engagement have had limited success and uptake (Farnell & Šćukanec, 2018). Moreover, there has been an absence of initiatives within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) that focuses on developing tools to comprehensively support community engagement. In addressing this gap, this contribution examines the development of a novel European framework for community engagement in higher education. The proposed framework was co-created through the EU-funded project Towards a European Framework for Community Engagement in Higher Education (TEFCE, www.tefce.eu). The resulting TEFCE Toolbox for Community Engagement in Higher Education is an institutional self-reflection framework that adopts a broad definition of community engagement, and centres on seven thematic dimension of community engagement. These dimensions encompass community engagement through teaching, research, knowledge exchange/service, students and university management, as well as dimensions on supportive institutional policies and supportive peers. The findings from this study indicated that the TEFCE Toolbox facilitates context-specific application in different types of institutions and socioeconomic environments. Adopting a bottom-up approach, the Toolbox is comprehensive by incorporating perspectives of engagement practitioners, students and community representatives. Unlike quantitative methods, the participative, qualitative approach allows ‘the voice’ and narrative of individual stakeholders to come to the fore. The process is holistic and developmental with the outcomes of applying the Toolbox including the recognition of community engagement achievements and the identification of potential areas for improvement.
European Commission (2017). Communication on a renewed EU Agenda for Higher Education. Brussels: Commission of the European Communities, COM(2017)247. Hazelkorn, E. (2016). Contemporary debates part 1: Theorising civic engagement. In Goddard, J., Hazelkorn, E., Kempton, L., & Vallance, P., The Civic University: The Policy and leadership challenges. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing. Farnell, T., & Šćukanec, N. (2018). Mapping existing tools for assessing community engagement in higher education. In Benneworth, P., Ćulum, B. Farnell, T., Kaiser, F., Seeber, M., Šćukanec, N., Vossensteyn, H., & Westerheijden, D., Mapping and critical synthesis of current state-of-the-art on community engagement in higher education (pp. 143-144). Zagreb: Institute for the Development of Education.
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