Claudia Frittelli: Evaluating university civic engagement


“Live Engagement, Transform Lives” was the theme for the Talloires Network 2014 conference I attended in Cape Town, December 2-4.  The network has grown from 29 university presidents, vice-chancellors and rectors from 21 universities at the founding meeting in Talloires, France in 2005 to the 322 members from 72 countries that it is today. University civic engagement worldwide has grown to include a range of activities including healthcare, small business consulting, student engagement, social work, and “engaged scholarship.”  In developing countries, especially those in Africa, universities have an even stronger role in communities where large gaps exist between the educated elite and the surrounding population.  In addition to substantiating their use of public funds in resource-constrained environments, university campuses must foster good relations with municipalities to ensure road, water and electricity infrastructure. However, universities seldom have a comprehensive view of their community engagement activities which stem across disparate faculties, units and departments.


A new tool developed by Corporation-supported Center for Higher Education Transformation’s Higher Education Research and Advocacy (HERANA) in Africa allows universities to map their engagement activities and determine how their “interconnectedness” contributes to the university’s academic core mission of teaching and research.

As the tool’s author, Francois van Schalkwyk commented at the conference, “The tool is not a ranking system, but rather it allows the university to assess where it is in terms of engagement activities contributing to teaching, learning and research on a continuum, and then determine where it chooses to move.

Providing evidence that a university’s community outreach activities are strengthening the institution’s core functions in addition to benefiting the community will better ensure long-term viability of investment in university contribution to the wider community.

Find more about the “interconnectedness” tool in the new CHET HERANA publication University Engagement as Interconnectedness.