Universities have been forced to examine the question of social engagement because of government attitudes and even rules in many countries.
Naturally, the question has arisen: how is ‘social engagement’ to be defined?
That is the question in my Inbox this morning from a colleague in another country.
Here is how I have responded:
“For what it is worth, my definition and thoughts are as follows:
‘Social engagement is the degree to which a university is engaged with society. Universities can be more or less “engaged”:
– there is “engagement” in terms of communicating the results of the university’s research to the community around the university (or to ‘society’ more generally – rather than simply to academic peers);
– there is “engagement” in terms of whether the community around the university is involved in helping the university’s researchers to prioritise the subjects of their research;
– there is “engagement” in terms of how the research itself is done (i.e. does the methodology of the research involve the community around the university?);
– there is “engagement” in terms of the governance of the university (i.e. is the community around the university involved in the governance of the university?).
It is sometimes objected that particular universities are so remote that there is no wider “community” or “society” around them.
Such remoteness could be due to the newness of the university, could be due to the lack of impact of the university’s work (because, if the work was impactful, the mere existence of the university would soon build up a wider community or society around it), or could be due to the irrelevance of the university to real-world issues.
Naturally, no university is concerned only about real-world issues. Every university, if it is to be a university, must have the liberty to be concerned about issues other than real-world issues. However, if any university is totally unconcerned about real-world issues, it is in dereliction of at least one of its duties.”
If you wish to use this para in your research/ presentation, you could cite it as being from personal correspondence.
But happy to have your thoughts, questions and responses to the above.