Policy on Community and Civic Engagement in Higher Education Institutions

The incentive for Campus Engage comes from the National Strategy for Higher Education 2030, which endorses the renewal of the civic mission of higher education and stresses that:

“Engagement with the wider community must become more firmly embedded in the mission of higher education institutions. Higher education institutions need to become more firmly embedded in the social and economic contexts of the communities they live in and serve" (National Strategy for Higher Education, 2011, 77).

The National Strategy builds on the efforts already made by HEIs in the area of civic engagement, but also stresses the need to do more. Recommendation 5.6 states that:

“Engagement with the wider community must become more firmly embedded in the mission of higher education institutions. To achieve this, higher education institutions will need to take the following actions:

  • Encourage greater inward and outward mobility of staff and students between higher education institutions, business, industry, the professions and wider community.
  • Respond positively to the continuing professional development needs of the wider community to develop and deliver appropriate modules and programmes in a flexible and responsive way.
  • Recognise civic engagement of their students through programme accreditation, where appropriate.
  • Put in place structures and procedures that welcome and encourage the involvement of the wider community in a range of activities, including programme design and revision

(National Strategy for Higher Education 2030, 2011, 77)

Click here to download the National Strategy for High Education

Higher Education System Performance Framework

In 2013 the Department of Education and Skills published the Higher Education System Performance Framework. The National Strategy for Higher Education, 2030 recommended that a steering and performance based framework for the system governance of higher education in Ireland be put in place. This framework sets out the areas of responsibility for setting national priorities of Government and related short to medium term objectives for the higher education system. Section 5.5 of the Higher Education Performance Compacts covers enhanced engagement with enterprise and the community and embedded knowledge exchange, and sets out the main inputs, outputs, targets and key stakeholders. 

The purpose of this Compact is to provide a strategic framework for the relationship between the Higher Education Authority and the institution. The HEA use this framework as the context for conducting a process of strategic dialogue with individual institutions where the HEA and institutions have agreed Performance Compact institutional KPIs. The Compact requires higher education institutions themselves to propose the qualitative and quantitative indicators against which their performance should be assessed, and is an outcome of strategic dialogue between the two bodies. The purpose of strategic dialogue is to align the missions, strategies of individual higher education institutions with national priorities, and to agree strategic objective indicators of success against which institutional performance will be measured and funding allocated.

The Compact establishes a shared sense of responsibility between institutional independence, and public accountability, and a recognition that strong, autonomous institutions are essential for the overall higher education system to respond effectively to evolving societal needs.

Legislation

Higher Education social responsibility is also enshrined in the State legislation on higher education, with the Universities Act (1997) requiring our universities ‘to promote the cultural and social life of society’, and the Institutes of Technology Act (2006) calling for a contribution ‘to the promotion of the economic, cultural and social development of the State’.

Campus Engage Charter for Civic and Community Engagement

At a landmark event in Dublin Castle, 16 June, 2014, 22 Presidents of Higher Education Institutions came together as leaders of higher education in Ireland, to publicly sign up to the 10 point Campus Engage Charter on Civic and Community Engagement. Under the Charter the Presidents underscore their commitment to the civic and industry engagement role and responsibilities of their institutions. As step two in developing the Campus Engage Charter, and supporting all HEIs in realising their ambitions in engagement under the Compacts, the Steering Committee set out to build a set of ‘indicative actions’ of a civically engaged HEI, which correspond to each of the Charter 10 points.  The network has worked closely with Presidents and senior management teams to get feedback and consult on the named actions/ indicators. We now have a draft set of indicators of a civically engaged institution. These are intended to support HEIs to self-assess on progress made in the field, offer recommendations, and will be developed into a practical online tool, currently in research and discovery phase.