On 1 December 2017 Prof Patrick O'Shea, President of UCC, launched the university’s new Civic Engagement Strategy, 2017-2022 to a packed auditorium, filled with members of the public, civic and civil society organisations, representatives from local enterprise, media, students and staff.
The Strategy is informed by extensive research, including a review of UCC current community engagement activity, alongside 9 other Irish higher education institutions, which was supported by the Carnegie Foundation, In addition, UCC carried out a staff survey and analysed a survey of 400 households in the Munster region. This information highlighted excellent examples of staff and student activity in the area of community engagement, but also identified areas in need of improvement. The survey indicated that public understanding of the engagement mission of the University is low, compared to other activities such as research and learning.
In response UCC’s plan, and associated goals for the period 2017-2022, is to become more 'Connected, Visible and Engaged with and for Community'. The new Civic and Community Engagement Plan includes provision for physical and organisational infrastructure, teaching and research support to help to reach their goals
Public service has always been at the heart of UCC. As early as 1911 UCC was engaged in community engagement through the extension programmes developed by then President Bertram Windle. UCC’s former President Alfred O’ Rahilly (1943 to 1954) established a social science department, and UCC have been offering adult education programmes to Cork and the greater Munster area since 1946. Public service defines Cork itself and it has always had a strong outward-looking orientation. Today UCC collaborates with all of the other Irish higher education institutions in a national effort to closely engage with communities through Campus Engage. In this regard the University has been a signatory to the Irish University’s’ Association Campus Engage Charter since 2014.
It is UCC’s ambition to become known as a centre of excellence for civic and community engagement, and through its new plan it will advance its scholarship and practice in this area. It has recently launched a new School of Public Health with a clear outward public focus on capacity development, research and advocacy in population health, health services and health systems research. It has renewed its commitment to International Development through its Centre for Global Development to strengthen UCC’s role in promoting global citizenship and bringing its interdisciplinary expertise to tackling the challenges of hunger, climate change, global inequality and other issues. Its Green Campus initiative is internationally recognized and the University has focussed community engagement efforts in the creative arts, Irish Language and Sports. It is the site of a European Science Shop Programme known as Community Academic Research Links (CARL) and has recently launched a UCC One Programme to develop engaged interdisciplinary modules and programmes for students that promote global citizenship. The university is also planning an optional community volunteering day for all staff each calendar year.