The SEU – Socially Engaged Universities project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and focuses on how universities can work more effectively and more inclusively within their city communities.
The objective of the SEU project is to share experience and know-how of the relationships between European Universities and their civic societies and use this as the basis for a series of innovative pilot projects (in each partner city) developing and sharing new approaches to community engagement. This project will boost understanding of the scope of and opportunities for community university partnerships and community-based research, helping them recognise and reflect upon the mutual benefits that community engagement can confer to both the researcher or university and the communities with which they engage.
As higher education faces unprecedented public scrutiny and increasing pressures from the political, economic, social and environmental agendas, there is increased public interest in the impact of universities on their localities and regions and growing calls for universities to be more socially relevant and responsible by addressing the needs of society, both locally and globally.
In recent years, the concept of the “Third Mission” has become popularised, referring to the social, enterprise, and innovative activities that universities perform in addition to core teaching and research tasks (Zomer and Benneworth 2011).
It is increasingly recognised that universities, when well-connected with their communities, can be a vehicle for making healthier, culturally richer and more interesting places to live, work and study. The civic university can be characterised by its ability to integrate its teaching, research and engagement with the outside world in such a way that each enhances the other without diminishing their quality (Goddard and Kempton 2016). Globally, more and more universities are integrating social responsibility into their mission statements, including those for research and teaching, arguing that higher education is improved when it gives back to the society that is responsible for funding it. Indeed, University Social Responsibility (USR) has become a core mission of many higher education institutions around the world (Timothy W. Tong, THE, April 7, 2017).
What we will do?
Through sharing successful innovative practice, we want to better understand how we can improve reciprocity between academia and local society in order to address regional challenges and deliver local economic, social and cultural benefits and impact.
→ We want to drive institution-wide appreciation of and commitment to, co-production of knowledge and innovation through social engagement and citizen-led research, where the experience and expertise of individuals, communities and civic organisations is recognised, used and valued. New knowledge will help identify opportunities for community engagement leading to enhanced understanding of how local engagement can be linked with research, teaching and volunteering.
→ At a local and regional level, by recognising and valuing the experience and expertise of individuals, communities and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), we can create the conditions for change, empower our communities, and build their capacity to create long-term, sustainable improvements which address priorities such as sustainability, health and wellbeing.
→ We want to explore and review the different models of community or civic university partnerships such as front-door (e.g. science shops), embedded and networked partnerships and define the processes, structures and governance which best nurture successful civic university partnerships. We also want to understand how Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) can build capacity to respond to what their local community really needs and perform or broker research (including community-based participatory action research), with and for communities, in a demand-driven way, while enhancing the civic competencies of students.
→ We will then analyse the different approaches currently being used to include underrepresented social groups and ethnic minorities in the engagement approach and consider opportunities for improving equity throughout all stages of the collaborative process.
→ We will synthesise the findings and lessons, and publish a series of case studies and synthesis reports. Finally, we want to identify opportunities to scale-up successful citizen-driven approaches and use partner cities as a test bed for their deployment.
The project addresses:
- the ERASMUS HE THEME - Strengthening the role of higher education institutions and research institutes in their local and regional environments
- the ERASMUS Strategic Partnership TOPIC - Supporting the social engagement of higher education institutions and promoting intercultural and civic competences of students.
European Commission reference number: 2018-1-UK01-KA203-048046
Project Duration: 2 years and 5 months (1st December 2018 – 30th April 2021)