Eight Australian universities have signed on for a national pilot of the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification – a framework for recognising university contribution beyond traditional measures such as academic rankings.
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Charles Sturt University will lead the pilot, joined by Australian Catholic University, CQUniversity Australia, Curtin University, Flinders University, Southern Cross University and the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Australian universities are highly engaged in the communities they serve. Considered an international gold standard, the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification allows universities to demonstrate this commitment to their communities and to share good practice in the sector.
The participating Australian universities have distinct institutional strengths and represent engagement with diverse communities in metropolitan and regional centres across the country. The Australian cohort institutions will complete and submit the existing US classification application and host individual campus site visits from the US Carnegie Classification Team.
The cohort will work together as a learning community to identify needed adjustments to the existing classification, recommend solutions and contribute to the development of an Australian specific version of the classification.
Participating Australian universities attended an initial convening in August to learn about the history, philosophy, and logic of the existing US Carnegie Classification. As the administrative and research home for the classification, the Swearer Center at Brown University is committed to expanding access and continuous improvement of the classification framework not only as an institutional assessment tool, but also as a tool of institutional change.
The Centre’s Executive Director and Associate Dean of Engaged Scholarship Mathew Johnson said: “This international pilot project will enable us to develop partnerships and learning communities where we will exchange research, data, and best practices with partners around the world. We look forward to informing the US classification with this international knowledge, and to supporting local and regional cohorts in developing locally relevant versions of this classification framework.”
The Australian pilot will be coordinated nationally by the lead institutions with the support of Engagement Australia, through coordination and action research, and the international Talloires network. One pilot has already been successfully run in Ireland in 2015-16 and has informed this international pilot project. Another cohort is currently underway in Canada.
Professor Andrew Vann, Vice Chancellor of Charles Sturt University, said: “Being a lead university to participate in the first Australian trial of the Carnegie Classification is an institutional highlight for Charles Sturt University.
“This process will really help to lift our standards of community participation and engagement and in turn produce better outcomes for the communities in which we operate – which is core to the strategic vision of CSU.”
UTS’s Executive Director, Social Justice, Verity Firth, said it had a strong tradition of commitment to social impact. “UTS has developed a unique whole-of-university Social Impact Framework, and we were keen to explore ways to work with other universities to enhance the public benefit of our sector as a whole.
“The opportunity to collectively forge an Australian community engagement classification through a world-leading framework is a game changer for higher education in Australia. Enhanced ability to benchmark, reward, incentivise and achieve scaled impact will enable and drive the critical mission of universities as institutions in service of society,” she said.
Professor Jim Nyland, Chair of Engagement Australia and Associate Vice-Chancellor of Australian Catholic University, said: “The nature and organisation of ‘engagement’ in Australian universities is diverse and multi-faceted; the challenge is to find unity in such diversity. Engagement Australia will coordinate an action research project in conjunction with pilot participants that will enable Australian universities to develop an evaluative and critical framework, provide a coherent focus for action, and demonstrate realities on the ground in their respective institutions that can be managed and developed.”
- The Carnegie Community Engagement Classification was first offered in 2006 as part of a restructuring of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
- It is an elective classification. Participating colleges and universities conduct a self-study to capture a full picture of the various elements of institutional commitment to community engagement.
- The Swearer Center at Brown University became the administrative and research host institution for the classification in January 2017.
- A total of 361 institutions are currently classified as Carnegie Community Engaged Campuses.
The classification framework represents best practices in the field and encourages continuous improvement through periodic re-classification.