NEW GUNi WORLD REPORT: Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education: Contributing to Social Change.

Cristina Escrigas

GUNi is pleased to present: Higher Education in the World Report 5: Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education: Contributing to Social Change, that has been published this week by Palgrave MacMillan. The Report is a collective work published as part of the GUNi series on the social commitment of universities. It is the result of a global and regional analysis of higher education in the world, with a specific subject chosen for each edition. Edited by GUNi, Budd Hall (Canada) and Rajesh Tandon (India) have been the guest editors. Seventy three authors from all the world regions have contributed to this edition.

The report reflects on key problems and challenges that higher education and its institutions are facing in contemporary society. The objective of the Reports is to contribute to the renewal of ideas, while generating visions and promoting reflection in regards to the contribution of higher education and knowledge to society.

GUNi’s mission is to strengthen higher education’s role in society, contributing to the renewal of the visions, missions and policies of the main issues of higher education across the world under a vision of public service, relevance and social responsibility.

A Ground-Breaking Publication

Rajesh Tandon, Guest Editor

“What kinds of knowledge, knowledge epistemologies and knowledge ecologies are required to transform the world into a place of peace, happiness, just and equity for citizens of the world?’

Pauline Gonzalez-Pose, UNESCO , “…This report brings to the forefront …issues…on how to transform higher education to exercise it social responsibility to citizens and society locally and globally:

David Malone, Rector of the United Nations University, “The 5th GUNi Higher Education in the World is a major contribution to exploring the vital role that can be played by higher education in driving social change”

The 5th GUNi World Report looks at critical dimensions in our understanding of the roles, and potential roles, of higher education institutions (HEIs) as active players in contributing to social change and the creation of another possible world. The first aim is to look at our changing understandings about who the agents of knowledge creation are and how the creation, distribution and use of knowledge are linked to our aspirations for a better world. The Report offers us elements of a vision for a renewed and socially responsible relationship between higher education, knowledge and society. The second aim is to provide visibility for and critically examine one of the most significant trends in higher education over the past 10–15 years: the growth of the theory and practice of engagement as a key feature in the evolution of higher education.

The report is a product of three years research, consultations, academic seminars and an international conference. The overall work was led by the GUNi team, with Cristina Escrigas as the Executive Director. Rajesh Tandon of India and Budd Hall of Canada, the jointly appointed UNESCO Chairs in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education served as Guest Editors of the report.

Seventy three authors, specialists and scholars from all continents contributed to this most comprehensive report ever done on the global dimensions of community university knowledge partnerships and engagement.

Objectives of the 5th Report

The report covers a range of different objectives to make the more comprehensive analysis of community- university engagement nowadays:

The aims of Higher Education in the World 5 are to:

  • Illustrate, describe and analyze the current concept of community university engagement and social responsibility in both levels, global and regional, around the world.
  • Illustrate how HEIs have linked knowledge with society. Presenting the different practices, mechanisms and structures, including the impact of engagement in teaching, learning, research and institutional activities.
  • Identify differences and similarities within the different world regions. Illustrating peculiarities among countries and providing a current territorial and thematic map about how HEIs are engaged with society.
  • Identify how the social actors are involved in the engagement practices and interact with HEIs, including leadership, participation and decision making process.
  • Propose steps for advancing the contribution of higher education to building a more just, equitable and sustainable society.
  • Offer a tool box for higher education practitioners through examples of good practices, innovations, relevant experiences and/or projects to move forward.

Contents of the Report

The report is structured into six sections: (1) The context, (2) Global Issues on Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education, (3) Research on Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education. (4) Regional Developments, (5) Future Visions and Agenda for Action and (6) Further Reading


This part is dealing with the context of the world’s current situation and the main trends and facts of the higher education systems around the world.


This part presents a current analysis of the global issues on knowledge, engagement and higher education. The section is structured as follows:

II.1 Community University-Engagement

II.1.1 Definitions, meanings and policy frameworks of community-university engagement worldwide

II.1.2 Current ways and practices of engagement

II.1.3 Institutional structures supporting community-university engagement. Dynamics in partnerships and main networks.

II.2 Knowledge in a new era

II.2.1 The use of knowledge for a re-conceptualized human progress

II.2.2 Changes in the way we handle, use, build and understand knowledge

II.2.3 All the knowledge counts: The value of indigenous knowledge

II.3 Knowledge for and with society

II.3.1 Knowledge democracy, collective intelligence and cognitive justice

II.3.2 Community and civil society as sources of knowledge

II.3.3 Knowledge and political decision-making: The governance of intelligent territories

II.4 University social responsibility

II.5 Engagement beyond the third mission

II.6 Rebuilding the engaged university

PART III. RESEARCH on Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education

Results from the research on knowledge, engagement and higher education carried out by GUNi analysing more than 300 experiences all around the world.


The Report includes a analysis of the state of the art of all world regions:

North America& Canada, Latin America & Caribe, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Arab States and Asia & the Pacific.

This part illustrates how the different regions have linked higher education with society trough engagement. Each region is complemented with a sub-regional analysis, a selection of trending topics, a reference to the networks related to community engagement in each region and a selection of good practices. Therefore, each chapter includes:

  • Regional chapter
  • Inside view (sub-regional or country analysis)
  • Spotlight issues on the region
  • Regional networks on the topic
  • Good practices


This section include a final article compiling the main ideas presented by the different authors complemented with a proposal of further steps for advancing the contribution of higher education towards the co-creation of knowledge and its engagement with society.


Previous editions

GUNi has previously published four issues of the Higher Education in the World report (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011), plus a synthesis (2009) committed by UNESCO for the II World Conference on Higher Education held in Paris in 2009.

See previous editions



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  • The Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP)

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