Universitas: how do students perceive university social responsibility in three European higher education institutions?
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Article publication date: 4 October 2021
Issue publication date: 26 April 2022
The social dimension of Higher Education has gained relevance on the political and strategic discourses that urge Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to put University Social Responsibility (USR) into action and also recognise its importance for students’ development. However, students’ conceptions of USR are seldom explored. This paper aims to understand students’ perceptions of USR and the potential of their involvement in broadly-defined USR activities/projects.
This research involves two studies in three European universities, Edinburgh, Porto and Kaunas: the first uses a qualitative approach to consider how students perceive the impact of their involvement in the Erasmus+ project ESSA, using document analysis, focus groups and thematic analysis; the second involves a questionnaire with 718 students to explore their views on USR, participation in university-based experiences, personal and social development and citizenship conceptions, analysed with descriptive and inferential statistics.
Student’s value USR and their university policies and practises, even if they feel they are not engaged as they should. They value university as a learning space beyond the classroom and putting USR into practice. Their participation is related to their appraisal of USR and their conceptions of citizens’ roles.
In spite of using convenience samples of students in three different universities, this research not only sheds light on students’ views on USR and their participation in diverse university-based experiences but also advances with research instruments that can be used in future research in this field.
This research helps HEIs realise the potential of promoting students’ participation in diverse university-based experiences, increasing community engagement and their development as professionals and critical citizens.
This paper addresses a research gap by exploring how students perceive USR and their participation in university-based experiences might simultaneously be a strategy for putting USR in action and fostering students’ civic engagement.
This work was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and by the European Social Fund – Human Capital Operational Programme (POCH) from Portugal 2020 Programme [PhD fellowship grant no. SFRH/BD/133889/2017 and by the Portuguese Government, through the FCT, under the strategic funding awarded to CIIE – Centre for Research and Intervention in Education [grant no. UID/CED/00167/2019; UIDB/00167/2020].
Coelho, M. and Menezes, I. (2022), "Universitas: how do students perceive university social responsibility in three European higher education institutions?", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 767-782. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-04-2021-0130
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