In 2010 DCU's Higher Education Research Centre (HERC) became Ireland’s first university based research centre to focus explicitly on issues of higher education and lifelong learning. Located in the office of DCU’s Vice-President for Academic Affairs, HERC grew out of the interdisciplinary research network LEARN (Learning Education and Academic Research Network).
HERC's objectives reflect those of DCU’s Strategic Plan (PDF) which aims to address "real world problems" and to transform “lives and societies through education, research and innovation". In line with the international field, HERC conducts interdisciplinary research drawing on sociology, psychology, organizational theory, communications, policy studies and education.
Higher Education Research Centre (HERC) is a partner of a new Erasmus+ project entitled UNIBILITY: Universities meet Social Responsibility (USR). The kick-off meeting was held in Vienna by the coordinating partner, the Postgraduate Center of the University of Vienna from October 15-16 2015. The consortium also includes the University of Porto, the University of Barcelona, the University of Ptuj, EUCEN and the Polytechnic University of Bucharest.
UNIBILITY is coordinated by the Postgraduate Centre of the University of Vienna and aims at strengthening the relationships of universities with their local communities through USR (University Social Responsibility) activities. The project works actively on student and researcher level and will develop and implement USR service learning projects impacting the local community in the area of environmental, social or economic research.
We think that the impact of universities on local communities is still largely unexploited: although universities are embedded within local communities, many local researchers work in isolation on a theoretical level without connection to problems of practice in their field, and many students lack practical working experience, while local business and social partners need innovation and the connection to science in order to be as competitive and innovative as possible. With our project we hope to encourage universities to reflect on the third mission and promote activities that fulfil their commitment to social responsibility!
Two major project outputs have been produced so far and are already openly accessible online on UNIBILITY website:
- Reader - From CSR to USR - It is a comprehensive and intensive reader-friendly tool for those who want to gain knowledge about universities’ social responsibility. It includes recent studies on USR and theory papers with summaries in English for a quick overview of the current and recent literature.
- USR Toolkit of Practices - It collects good practice examples of how social responsibility is implemented between a university and its local environment, from Spain, Portugal, Austria, Ireland, Slovenia and Romania.