Impact of Higher Education Institutions on Regional Economies: A Joint Research Initiative



Universities and community engagement: learning with excluded communities

September 2007 - August 2009

Link to this project's  ESRC Award Page

Project Team

There is increasing expectation on universities to engage with the local communities in which they exist. To earlier emphases on business engagement has been added a rising growing expectation that universities will help socially-excluded communities to adapt to the demands of the knowledge economy. This expectation is based on several partly contradictory visions of universities:

  • Democratic communities where equals negotiate democratically and reflectively
  • As private businesses selling services competitively in global markets, and
  • As governmental instruments serving wider social purposes.

This project explores the practical ways these theoretical tensions are playing out in the way universities are engaging with a number of socially excluded communities. Central to the research is the idea that what unifies all three visions of a university is that the university is a learning community, and reach out need bring socially excluded actors into these learning communities as full participants.

The research will explore concrete university projects - in poorer British regions and nations – actively involving socially excluded groups. The focus will be how this is developing new learning and knowledge capacities in socially-excluded participants, using detailed place-based qualitative studies of communities engagement and co-evolution with universities’ own engagement activities.

Related Themes