In the context of increasingly diverse issues that affect global society, the social responsibility dimension in higher education institutions is being called to the forefront of change, both in the sense of rethinking their internal practices (e.g. promoting the access and progression of students from different cultural backgrounds) and in their interaction with the surrounding community (e.g. through the establishment of stronger partnerships). The USR activities and projects are considered driving forces of change for universities, but the potential that the involvement of students in this area can have, in their academic and professional capacities, is not yet sufficiently studied.
This study examines how students from three European universities (Edinburgh, Porto and Kaunas) perceive the impact of their own involvement in the Erasmus + project ESSA – an experiential training in university social responsibility audit – through focus-group discussions.
This analysis pointed towards the role of USR projects as an opportunity for students to improve transversal competencies aligned with articulation between the three cornerstones of the university: teaching, research and third mission.
The study rests on students' perceptions of personal change.
This research can help higher education institutions understand the potential of involving students in existing USR projects as a tool to promote their personal, academic and civic development.
USR is a core mission of higher education institutions that is beneficial not only internally but also in what concerns interactions with the community and the potential for developing “public-minded alumni”.
This paper provides an insight into how students perceive the impact of their involvement in USR projects as unique learning spaces.
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. (2020), "University social responsibility as a driving force of change: students’ perceptions beyond the ivory tower", On the Horizon, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 93-100. https://doi.org/10.1108/OTH-02-2020-0005
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited