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Student‐community engagement and the development of graduate attributes

Kristine Mason O'Connor (University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK)
Kenny Lynch (University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK)
David Owen (National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Bristol, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 15 March 2011




The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of student‐community engagement in ensuring relevance of higher education to civil, social, economic and moral issues. It reviews the literature around three inter‐related themes: calls for higher education institutions to engage with their communities; the kinds of attributes university graduates should possess for employability and citizenship; and the pedagogies of experiential learning and reflection informing student and community engagement.


This paper evaluates and draws together international literature related to three areas: calls for universities to engage with their communities, attributes which students engaged in co‐generative community relations might develop, and pedagogies which inform and develop such engagement.


The paper draws a number of conclusions related to pedagogy, citizenship and the need to develop quality indicators of engagement and impact. The overarching conclusion is that student‐community engagement founded on principles of mutual reciprocity enhances student attributes and is an important aspect of the modern university. Higher education needs to both retrieve the traditional civic role of the university, and also look forward to creating new approaches, so that universities are “of” the community and developing graduates as citizens.

Practical implications

The paper includes policy implications for curriculum development in relation to fostering graduate attributes and citizenship.


Through an exploration and integration of literature related to themes of university community engagement, graduate attributes and pedagogies of experiential reflective learning the paper signposts an agenda of change for universities in the twenty‐first century.



Mason O'Connor, K., Lynch, K. and Owen, D. (2011), "Student‐community engagement and the development of graduate attributes", Education + Training, Vol. 53 No. 2/3, pp. 100-115.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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