Tom Boland, Higher Education Authority Chief Executive, Launches new book on 'Higher Education and Civic Engagement' edited by DCU and NUIG Civic Engagement Leaders
Tom Boland, Lorraine Mc Ilrath, Helen Mc Quillan, Ronnie Munck, Ann Lyons, Madeleine Clark, Brian Mc Craith (from left to right)
At a well- attended meeting held at The Helix the new book edited by Lorraine Mc Ilrath, Ann Lyons and Ronaldo Munck ‘Higher Education and Civic Engagement: Comparative Perspectives' (Palgrave Macmillan) was launched following a round-table discussion on how to move forward the civic engagement agenda in Irish higher education institutions.
Welcoming the attendants, DCU President Professor Brian Mc Craith praised the publication of the book and supported the round-table discussion around how higher education could build civic engagement. He asked: ‘How do we, in higher education, educate our students and prepare our graduates for global citizenship in these very challenging times? What is our role as a university in engagement across borders?' He argued that ‘It is a challenge we must embrace if we are to make an impact and be seen as a force for social change. At DCU we firmly believe that Universities can and should act as local catalysts for social, regional and economic recovery'.
The round table included contributions from Tom Boland, Chief Executive of the HEA, Lorraine Mc Ilrath, director of the Community Knowledge Initiative at NUIG, Dr. Helen Mc Quillan, manager of DCU in the Community and Madeleine Clark, founder of Genio and and Ashoka Entrepeneur.
Tom Boland outlined the new national higher education strategy and the important role of civic engagement within it. It could contribute hugely to transforming research, teaching and the student experience. There is also, he said, a ‘growing appreciation of the potential of higher education institutions to contribute to social equality and community development with much greater emphasis on principles of partnership, empowerment, participation and capacity building'. Civic engagement would be promoted to drive this mission in a way which recognised diversity and distinctive ways of ‘doing' engagement and accepted that it could not be an ‘add on' to normal business.
Lorraine Mc Ilrath outlined the way the Community Knowledge Initiative began at NUI Galway with external funding and then became embedded within the culture of the university. There were now many initiatives in the area of community based or service learning and around volunteering which were ‘making a difference' in the lives of students and in the wider community. This work also led to the HEA funded Campus Engage network designed to promote civic engagement across the sector and ‘mainstream' it if possible.
Dr. Helen Mc Quillan spoke to the very real problems in driving civic engagement within the higher education sector based on the case of DCU in the Community which is based in Ballymun in North Dublin. These initiatives do have a very real impact on individuals and communities which have, for long, been excluded from higher education. But to be successful and sustainable a very real ‘culture shift' would need to occur within the institutions of higher education.
Madeleine Clark stressed the need to engage with wider social change and the creative ways in which profit-making and non-profit making organisations could work together to combat social exclusion through strategic people-oriented initiatives. She called for civic engagement ‘to become the developing mission of higher education' and to become much more central in the work which universities to by offering a vision for social transformation.
Round table chair, Professor Ronnie Munck, Head of Civic Engagement at DCU concluded that we have now moved from debating civic engagement to implementing it: ‘Its potential to change the culture of higher education is clear as is its increased social relevance in a period of crisis.' He announced that Campus Engage will be re-launched in the autumn to provide support for higher education institutions seeking to build a civic engagement mission and to create a vibrant network or community of practice. ‘Civic engagement is here to stay, it's not an add-on' he added.
Tom Boland then formally launched Higher Education and Civic Engagement, commending it to university policy makers and academic staff saying it ‘made an important contribution to the debate in Ireland and, indeed, internationally. It poses challenges and offers some answers though it wisely steers clear from advocating one model'.
To order this book please email: Natalja.Matease@dcu.ie