The Relationship of Community Engagement With Universities’ Core Missions

  • Paul BenneworthEmail author
  • David Charles
  • Catherine Hodgson
  • Lynne Humphrey


This chapter seeks to highlight and make explicit some of the tensions and issues that arise inside universities seeking to engage, and to provide insights into how activities framed as peripheral, contingent and voluntary can become significant to a particular institution. This chapter begins from the perspective that a university can be regarded as a set of groupings with different, and sometimes competing, interests. For community engagement to become a serious institutional interest, engagement must offer something to each grouping within the university. This chapter explores the dynamics of these institutional dialogues as a means of understanding university–community engagement. Different groupings have different kinds of attachments to community engagement as a means of fulfilling their own interests. Where institutional narratives of community engagement can be found that encompass many different groupings’ attitudes, then community engagement can become important to the university. Otherwise, internal tensions frame community engagement as working against institutional interests, and hence reinforce its peripherality, contingency and optionality.


Corporate Social Responsibility Social Capital Community Engagement Engagement Activity Individual Social Capital 
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This chapter draws on within the Economic and Social Research Council funded project ‘Universities and excluded communities’, part of the Regional Impacts of Higher Education Initiative. This Initiative is co-funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales, the Scottish Funding Council and the Department for Education and Learning Northern Ireland. An early version of this paper was presented at the UNESCO Global Research Forum Seminar, ‘Sharing Research Agendas on Knowledge Systems’, Paris, France, 28–30 November 2008 (Benneworth et al. 2008) and is published in the proceedings of that conference as Benneworth et al. (2009a). The section on expertise levels draws on the research project ‘Characterising modes of university engagement with wider society: A literature review and survey of best practice’, undertaken for the Office of the Pro Vice Chancellor (Engagement), Newcastle University (November 2008 to April 2009), and published as Benneworth et al. (2009b). Many thanks are due to Professor Paul Younger, at the time PVC (Engagement) of Newcastle University, for his help with the development of the ideas in the research project, and for the acquisition and translation of the Ruiz Bravo table.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Benneworth
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Charles
    • 2
  • Catherine Hodgson
    • 3
  • Lynne Humphrey
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Higher Education Policy StudiesUniversity of TwenteEnschedethe Netherlands
  2. 2.European Policy Research CentreUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowUK
  3. 3.Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology & EnterpriseNewcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

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