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NEWSLETTERTalloires Network 2014 – “Live engagement, transform lives”
The fast-growing Talloires Network of 332 engaged universities from across the world held its third international conference in Stellenbosch, outside Cape Town, from 2-4 December – for the first time in the global South and for the first time with a strong student presence and input.
The title was “Live Engagement, Transform Lives”, and there were three overarching themes: perspectives from the global South, youth employment, and economic development.
The conference was co-sponsored by the South African Higher Education Community Engagement Forum and co-hosted by the Cape Higher Education Consortium comprising four universities – Cape Peninsula, Cape Town, Stellenbosch and the Western Cape.
University World News was the media partner. There were pre-conference articles on major issues around university civic engagement, and coverage during and after the event. This Special Edition includes these stories as well as new articles based on conference sessions, speeches and interviews.
Karen MacGregor – Global Editor
Talloires Network Leaders Conference
GLOBALRebecca Warden and Karen MacGregor
Educating economically successful global citizens, expanding access to higher education, measuring the impacts of work with communities, influencing university rankings, incentives for engaged academics and a greater role for students. These were major topics for debate and new goals as university leaders from across the world set the stage for future university engagement at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference 2014.
GLOBALRebecca Warden and Ard Jongsma
International league tables should take account of civic engagement when they are ranking universities, according to a Call to Action from 264 vice-chancellors, academics and students gathered at the closing ceremony of the global Talloires Network Leaders Conference near Cape Town, South Africa.
National and regional groups of universities that promote community engagement have been increasing around the world – some of them at breakneck speed – while university engagement organisations are also connecting globally to learn from one another.
Growing numbers of university leaders worldwide are seeing community engagement as a central priority, says Professor Robert M Hollister, executive director of the Talloires Network – a global coalition of universities committed to moving beyond the ivory tower. Rather than distracting from engagement, internationalisation is “dramatically reinforcing and accelerating that trend, through people learning from and influencing one another’s work”.
While universities are increasingly encouraging students to be involved in the community and to become engaged citizens, they do not necessarily have control over activities that take place on campuses, or spill onto the streets. “We encourage students to be actively engaged, but it can be dangerous, too,” said Stephen Chan, head of the office of service learning at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Community work by university staff and students is often seen as an add-on to academic core business. But can it actually be more than that? Can it help to attract students from underrepresented groups? Can it bridge the gap between higher education and communities that have traditionally been excluded from it? And can it even benefit the core curriculum?
Perspectives from the global South
Despite rich and varied experience in the global South, there appears to be a tendency for international dialogue about university civic engagement and social responsibility to be dominated by perspectives of the global North. What are the lessons from the South?
SOUTH AFRICAYojana Sharma
Community-based research by universities, almost unknown less than a decade ago, is increasing – particularly as part of interdisciplinary research that includes a community ‘impact’ element. But researchers have been frustrated at the lack of funding when members of the community are included in gathering data or contribute to research in other ways.
SOUTH AFRICAKaren MacGregor
Why is it that while universities talk increasingly about civic engagement, the world is heading in exactly the opposite direction? asked Professor Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, in the opening keynote at the Talloires Network conference. “Our world is far more unequal – every single indicator shows this – and far more socially polarised than it’s ever been.”
Employment and economic development
Around the world the number of graduates is growing, yet the ‘skills mismatch’ is also rising. A degree is no longer a guarantee of a good job, and fingers are being pointed at universities for failing to better prepare students for the real world and the expectations of employers.
Engaged universities – those that see engaging with the wider community as part and parcel of their mission – can use these activities to contribute to economic development too. Around the globe, universities are doing this in various ways, some in ways you might expect, others in ways that might surprise you.
Reeta Roy is president of the Toronto-based MasterCard Foundation, which has assets of over US$9 billion and more than 35 partnerships with universities and other organisations, funding programmes in areas such as microfinance and youth learning. One is the Youth Economic Participation Initiative with the global Talloires Network of engaged universities, which supports initiatives that help graduates' transition to the workforce.
Since traditional teaching methods are no longer sufficient to educate students to meet the expectations of employers or the rigorous demands of an entrepreneurial career, preparing students for full participation in the economy is a daunting task across the world.
Students are often tagged onto international conferences to add legitimacy without giving them real influence. Not so at this month’s Talloires Network conference outside Cape Town, to which 40 student delegates from all over the world were invited on equal terms and where they were given a perfect environment to network with each other and prepare collective input.
Student engagement is known to correlate well with retention and success but its impact on developing citizenship competences is hardly studied. A new report by HERANA – Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa – has shown that key aspects of the undergraduate student experience have a profound impact on raising levels of citizenship competences.
“Most young people today don’t have the patience, the instinctual deference to authority, or the parochialism of past generations. They want to make an impact, they want to do it now, and they know there is much that needs to be done,” says Professor Lisa Anderson, president of the American University in Cairo.
GLOBALMunyaradzi Makoni and Karen MacGregor
Basavanagouda Patil is a final year student at the National Law School of India University. Much of his time is spent volunteering at the Legal Services Clinic, whose committee he leads, and which among other things provides legal services for the poor and public interest litigation. The clinic was one of three student projects to win a 2014 MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship.
Four African universities are to receive US$86.6 million over the next eight to 10 years from the MasterCard Foundation in scholarship funds and other support for economically disadvantaged young people, MasterCard Foundation CEO Reeta Roy announced in Cape Town on 3 December.
The Talloires Network University Volunteer Program, in partnership with Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Portugal and funded by the Santander Group, is a major international student engagement initiative.
Measuring, rewarding, sharing
The number of academics who step outside the ivory tower to engage with the community is growing and universities are using a variety of ways to compensate them for doing so. But institutions that recognise and reward this effort are still very much a minority and the reasons why they find it hard to do are complex.
AFRICAFrançois van Schalkwyk
African research that forms part of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa – HERANA – project has developed indicators to measure university-community engagement projects, to ascertain whether their activities are connected to the strategy of the institution, are linked to external constituents in a sustainable manner, feed into teaching and generate new knowledge.
The importance of long-term planning and investment in higher education were stressed by major funders of universities – the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Santander Bank – in a session on “Strategies for Generating Financial Resources” at the Talloires Network 2014 conference.
Structures to facilitate research partnerships globally have been in existence for up to 150 years, but there is an uneven spread of models across a wider range of higher education institutions as new partnerships have emerged in recent years, a comparative study to identify challenges and propose solutions has revealed.
The Association of Commonwealth Universities launched a new initiative, the ACU Engage Community, at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference 2014. The platform will provide a forum to disseminate knowledge and project management skills among practitioners and share news about opportunities in community engagement.
Universities around the world are adopting very different approaches to how they serve their communities. Tales of three universities told at the Talloires Network conference near Cape Town from 2-4 December are living proof of this diversity.
Civic engagement is all about equal partnerships between universities and communities. What representatives of Lahore University of Management Sciences did not expect when they went to work with a small female-run cottage industry in Pakistan, was that the women would turn their thinking about business on its head.
UNITED KINGDOMArd Jongsma
Does a university always need students as intermediaries or vectors for community action? No, a very successful programme at Glasgow University has been proving the opposite since 2002. Instead of sending students out into the community, they made the community the students.
A recent project for improving community health, presented by Pennsylvania University to attendees at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference, shows how service-learning projects can benefit university students as much as they do people in the community.
SOUTH AFRICAMunyaradzi Makoni
Stellenbosch University’s Innovus initiative is providing a platform for community and industry through entrepreneurial grooming.
The Talloires Network of engaged universities continues to grow. It now has 332 members in 72 countries. But dealing with a mandate as broad and diverse as community engagement requires some clear focal points. University World News asked Tony Monaco, president of Tufts University and incoming chair of the network’s steering committee, what we can expect from Talloires in the years ahead.
SOUTH AFRICAKaren MacGregor
“As higher education institutions think about what they offer young people in terms of curricula, in terms of research opportunities, they also have to think about values, ethics and character,” said Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s minister of science and technology, in the concluding keynote at the global Talloires Network Leaders Conference.
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