Socially Responsible Higher Education: International Perspectives on Knowledge Democracy - new book!


Is the university contributing to our global crises or does it or does it offer stories of hope? Much recent debate about higher education has focussed upon rankings, quality, financing and student mobility. The COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, the calls for decolonisation, the persistence of gender violence, the rise of authoritarian nationalism, and the challenge of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have taken on new urgency and given rise to larger questions about the social relevance of higher education. In this new era of uncertainty, and perhaps opportunity, higher education institutions can play a vital role in a great transition or civilisational shift to a newly imagined world.

Socially Responsible Higher Education: International Perspectives on Knowledge Democracy shares the experiences of a broadly representative and globally dispersed set of writers on higher education and social responsibility, broadening perspectives on the democratisation of knowledge. The editors have deliberately sought examples and viewpoints from parts of the world that are seldom heard in the international literature. Importantly, they have intentionally chosen to achieve a gender and diversity balance among the contributors. The stories in this book call us to take back the right to imagine, and ‘reclaim’ the public purposes of higher education.

The chapter 20 "Towards a European Framework for Community Engagement in Higher Education", by Thomas Farnell and Bojana Ćulum Ilić, presents some of the key conclusions of the project ‘TEFCE – Towards a European Framework for Community Engagement of Higher Education’. The project has developed an innovative “toolbox” that supports universities and policymakers in fostering community engagement. It provides a meaningful assessment of an institution’s level of community engagement, and thus opens a platform to discuss how to improve institutional community engagement performance.

Higher education students, scholars and administrators. Ministries of higher education, policy makers, networks, foundations, UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education, Climate crisis and social justice activists, University World News.

The social responsibility of higher education was chosen as the opening paragraph of the Conference Communique of the UNESCO World Conference of Higher Education (WCHE) in 2009. Specifically the communique notes, “Higher Education as a public good is the responsibility of all stakeholders, especially governments. It [higher education] should lead society in generating global knowledge to address global challenges, inter alia food security, climate change, water management, intercultural dialogue, renewable energy and public health.”

In the years that have followed the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education, we have seen an extraordinary growth in policies, critiques, practices, theories and networks that have added significantly to our understanding of, identification of challenges and new architectures of knowledge in response to the calls for social responsibility. There has been a general groundswell of reactions against the neoliberalisation of universities in many parts of the world, a reaction to the idea of knowledge and learning as a commodified good.

The creation of the UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility (CBR-SR) in Higher Education was one direct outcome of the WCHE. And in the run up to the UNESCO’s 3rd World Conference on Higher Education, the UNESCO Chair in CBR-SR in Higher has published Socially Responsible Higher Education: International Perspectives on Knowledge Democracy.

The proposed book is edited by Dr Budd Hall and Dr Rajesh Tandon, Co-Chairs of the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education and active members of the GUNi network. Established in 2012, the Chair grew out of and supports the UNESCO global lead to play a ‘key role in assisting countries to build knowledge societies.’ The Chair is co-located at the University of Victoria, Canada and Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), in New Delhi, India. The two Co-Chairs are visionary practitioners and teachers of participatory research, with several seminal publications, most recently, “Knowledge & Engagement: Building Capacity for the Next Generation of Community Based Researchers” and “Strengthening Community University Research Partnerships: Global Perspectives”. They have been part of the editorial team in writing the “GUNi Higher Education in the World 5: Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education: Contributing to Social Change” and “GUNi World Report on Higher Education 6: Towards a Socially Responsible University: Balancing the Global with the Local”.


  • UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • The Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP)

Sponsored by

  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry of Business and Employment. Department of Research and Universities
  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry for Foreign Action and Open Government