The Civic Purpose and Avowed Mission of Higher Education Institutions – Diversity or Uniformity?

By Maria-Alejandra Gonzalez-Perez, Iain Mac Labhrainn and Lorraine McIlrath.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The ‘mission’ statements of Higher Education Institutions often include both explicit and implicit commitments to their local, regional and national communities. These may be expected to vary according to particular social, political, environmental, historical, cultural and economic contexts. However, with globalising trends there is pressure for institutions to demonstrate a commitment to economic growth and ‘relevance,’ as well as the adoption of an emerging ‘standard model’ of what constitutes a university.

Based on an analysis of institutional mission statements across the Irish higher education sector, it is clear that, although the ‘economic contribution’ and related aspects feature frequently (and strongly in most cases), there is still considerable emphasis on the wider social, civic and cultural role of institutions. Mission statements vary according to institution type and such separation is very strongly evident, with universities espousing a wider range of activities, a commitment to “excellence,” national and international roles and cultural value. Institutes of Technology emphasise access to courses, local importance and economic relevance and specialist colleges reflect a focus on ethical and professional issues as is relevant to their narrower focus. It almost all cases, the distinctive aspects of each institution are emphasised in accompanying documents rather than the mission statements themselves, which tend to be very ‘general’ in nature, and similar within each institution type.

Keywords: Higher Education Institutions, Mission Statement, Universities in the Community, Civic Engagement, Role of Universities

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.187-198. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 611.558KB).

Maria-Alejandra Gonzalez-Perez

Researcher, Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI), National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Ireland

Maria-Alejandra Gonzalez-Perez is a researcher working with the CKI at the National University of Ireland Galway. Alejandra has a multi-disciplinary background. Her PhD analysed social responsibility networks (SRN) and their role in improving the working and living conditions of workers in the banana industry. She has over five years experience working in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), two of them as a practitioner for a major multinational company (Chiquita Brands Int.) in Latin America. Alejandra is a qualified Clinical Psychologist and holds a M.B.S in Industrial Relations and Human Resources Management from NUI Galway. She is member of the Global Studies Association (GSA), International Industrial Relations Association (IIRA), Global Development Network (GDN), the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), and the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE).

Dr. Iain Mac Labhrainn

Director, Centre for Excellence in Learning & Teaching (CELT), National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Ireland

Iain MacLabhrainn is the Director of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK) and numerous international organisations and collaborations in higher education. Originally holding a PhD in Physics and working as a researcher, lecturer and Reader in this subject, he has spent the last ten years working and researching on student learning and the purposes of higher education. The Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) is a major project hosted within CELT and initially funded by a generous donation from a major philanthropic trust. He is responsible for advising and managing the CKI Project as it becomes a mainstream activity within NUI Galway. He recnetly edited 'Higher Education and Civic Engagement: International Perspectives' with Lorraine McIlrath.

Lorraine McIlrath

Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) Project Coordinator, and Academic Staff Developer., Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI), National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Ireland

Lorraine McIlrath has Academic Staff Developer (Service Learning) based at CELT in NUI Galway and is Project Manager for CKI. She has been responsible for developing and supporting the introduction of the 'service' or community-based learning to the University and its promotion across Ireland. Previously, she worked at the UNESCO Centre at the University of Ulster, where in partnership with the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), she developed an academic programme on the Northern Ireland conflict and peace process which underpinned service learning. She was also responsible for supporting the development of the Northern Ireland curricular framework for ‘Local and Global Citizenship’ in partnership with the Citizenship Foundation, UNESCO Centre and the Citizenship Foundation and published a Resource Directory for all schools in Northern Ireland. Lorraine is co-editor of the recently published 'Higher Education and Civic Engagement: International Perspectives'.

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