White Paper on the Centrality of Engagement in Higher Research

Release of White Paper on the Centrality of Engagement in Higher Education by the Coalition on Engagement and Outreach of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (USA) (attached to this note)-courtesy of Dr. Hiram Fitzgerald, President of the Coalition on Engagement and Outreach and Associate Provost for Outreach at Michigan State University. (Fitzger9@msu.edu)

Another very useful statement of principles and values from universities in the USA that are providing exceptional leadership in this field.  See the core principles below.

Core Principles

The centrality of engagement is critical to the success of higher education in the future.
•Today’s higher education leaders find themselves at a difficult and important decision point
A coalescence of political, social and economic pressures may push institutions to consider disengaging from their communities.

•However, a more comprehensive level of engagement between the university and its many communities will foster stronger support from multiple sources for the future of higher education and society.

•Through engagement we can shift the established framework of higher education to a stronger level of societal relevance that transforms us into a stronger, wealthier and more equitable society while advancing institutional goals.

•Engagement is essential to most effectively achieving the overall purpose of the university which is focused on the knowledge enterprise. The university, within the broader societal system, has responsibility to fuel knowledge creation, transfer and application to enhance societal purposes.

Today’s engagement is scholarly; is an aspect of learning and discovery; and enhances society and higher education.
•Through the engagement model, the community and university partners work to co-create solutions on a local, national and global level.

•Undergirding today’s approach to engagement is the understanding that not all knowledge and expertise resides in the academy, and that both expertise and great learning opportunities in teaching and scholarship also reside in non-academic settings.

•Engagement is an umbrella that covers every good practice in teaching, research and service. By recommitting to fulfilling their societal contract, public and land-grant universities can fulfill their promise as institutions that truly produce knowledge that benefits society and prepares students for productive citizenship in a democratic society.

•This new engagement also posits a new framework for scholarship that moves away from emphasizing products (e.g., publications) to emphasizing impact.

New approaches must be taken to embed engagement into the central core of the institution.
•To thrive in the 21st Century, higher education must move engagement from the margin to the mainstream of its research, teaching and service work.

•To fully embed engagement into the central core of the institution, it must be scholarly; cut across the mission of teaching, research and service; be reciprocal and mutually beneficial; and embrace the process and values of civil democracy (Bringle & Hatcher, 2011).

•Engagement should be aligned with key institutional priorities.

•Engagement projects and initiatives should be viewed as mechanisms for making engagement an essential vehicle to accomplish higher education’s more important goals.

•For institutions to fully incorporate engagement into all aspects of the institutional mission it must fully address issues related to structure, budget and operation.

•Faculty involvement and support for engagement are essential for furthering the institutionalization of engagement.