Startpage for Swedish National Agency for Higher Education

Please note! The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education was closed down on 31 December 2012. Instead two new agencies have been established: the Swedish Council for Higher Education and the Swedish Higher Education Authority. This website will continue to operate as the new agencies will have links to information it contains.  

Report 2008:10 R

Community engagement in higher education


Since a previous study in 2004, this study demonstrates that community engagement is now more integrated into all areas of the organisation, research and teaching in higher education institutions (HEIs).

In 2004, the assessment panel ascertained that community engagement had three components:

  • development of democracy, i.e. dissemination of research findings for the benefit of the general public
  • knowledge transfer and growth, i.e. participation in knowledge and innovation systems
  • improved study programmes, i.e. the content and scope of study programmes and students´ contacts with the wider community.
Since 2004, most progress has been made in the area of study programmes. There has been a dialogue between the HEIs and the wider community about the contents and scope of study programmes and there has also been an increase in the number of student placements and guest lectures. The emphasis on employability in the Bologna Process has also had an influence. With regard to democratisation, the dissemination of research findings to the general public has become an established part of community engagement. With regard to knowledge transfer and growth, there has been a definite increase in the efforts of HEIs to develop appropriate strategies.
With regard to democratisation, the following HEIs have made most progress:UmeåUniversity , Mid Sweden University,KalmarUniversityCollegeand GotlandUniversityCollege. With regard to knowledge transfer and growth, the following HEIs have made most progress: Mid Sweden University,KalmarUniversityCollege ,MalmöUniversityCollegeand HalmstadUniversityCollege. With regard to study programmes, most HEIs have made considerable progress since 2004.

An account of recommendations for the future includes:

  • HEIs should have a common strategy for community engagement.
  • All HEIs require direct funding for community engagement.
  • The community engagement merits of staff should be of relevance to employment, promotion and salary.
  • More external funding i.e. direct government funding is required if there is to be clearer division of responsibilities between HEIs, better use of resources and higher standards.
  • Indicators to measure community engagement should be able to be used for different purposes.
  • HEIs should formulate targets that can be measured and must be aware of the resources needed to reach these targets.
  • Recurrent external reviews lead to higher standards.
  • Students must be involved in discussions about academic integrity.
  • HEIs should exchange ideas about how work with community engagement is organised and any changes made to an organisation should be evaluated.
  • The official research funding bodies should coordinate their work regarding the dissemination of research finding.
  • University libraries should exchange ideas with regard to service to the public and attempt to develop long-term relationships with the private and public sectors.
  • The management of HEIs should be more aware that research is the basis of political decision making.
  • HEIs within a region should coordinate their work better to create innovation systems that work well on a regional level.
  • Students should be able to present their views to holding companies that sell contract education.
  • HEIs should develop strategies for how the views of the wider community can be utilised in a systematic way. HEIs should not just accept the demands of the wider community but constantly assess and improve their study programmes. They also have an obligation to society as providers of future knowledge, e.g. developing new research.
  • HEIs must accept the challenges of the Bologna Process. In addition to placements as part of study programmes, HEIs should also arrange guest lectures and study visits as part of study programmes. Even students on independent courses must be offered more opportunities for community engagement.
  • The regulations for contract education must allow for freelance artists to participate in professional development courses.
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