Minister for Education and Skills, Mr Ruairi Quinn T.D officially launched the Campus Engage Charter on Civic and Community Engagement, at a momentous event in Dublin Castle on June 16th. 20 Presidents of Higher Education Institutions came together as leaders of higher education in Ireland, to publicly sign up to the 10 point Campus Engage Charter on Civic and Community Engagement. Under the charter the presidents underscore their commitment to the civic and community engagement role and responsibilities of their institutions.
Launching the Charter, Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Ruairi Quinn T.D said, “Today is an important recognition of commitment by Ireland’s higher education institutions to build on what has been achieved to date and place Ireland at the fore internationally in terms of promoting civic and community engagement by higher education. The importance of ‘engagement’ is recognised in the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, and in the HEA’s performance framework, which both ask higher education institutions to engage openly with their community and wider society and for this to infuse every aspect of their mission. I congratulate all involved in the realisation of the Charter, and specifically the Presidents for their commitment.“
The Charter was developed by Campus Engage, a HEA funded, national initiative with representation from 17 HEIs, IOTI and the IUA. Its role is to promote innovative teaching, learning and other activities in the area of civic and community engagement.
In a time of economic uncertainly, and a policy context focused on developing our “knowledge society” there has been considerable emphasis on the contribution of Higher Education Institutions to economic recovery. Campuses across the country are building capacity and activating ‘bottom up’ student and staff-led initiatives such as community- based learning, community-based research and volunteering, to tackle the skills deficit, contributing community-based research to inform public policy, engaging in political debate and providing evidenced-informed media debate on matters of public policy and public concern.
Dr. Oliver Murphy, President, IT, Tralee outlined that “Civic engagement through community based learning/research and volunteering enables students to experience positive associations, increased life satisfaction and higher self-esteem. Enabling such student experience is very important within the ethos of the Institute. We are one of the first Higher Education Institutes to award academic credit for civic engagement and volunteering experiences. The elective modules Community Service Initiative, Community Leadership Initiative, Volunteering & Community Tourism focus on expanding student community civic engagement and social capital enhancement”. We encourage a student experience, which connects students through their studies to their community, in essence we strive for a ‘Living Campus’.
Our recently appointed UNESCO Chair “Transforming the Lives of People with Disabilities, their Families and Communities through Physical Education, Recreation, Sport & Fitness” within the Health & Leisure Department, has a research focus, very much embedded in the needs of community (local, national & International). It is pioneering a number of EU research projects which endeavour to enable those with physical, intellectual and sensory disabilities to access sport, recreation, physical education and fitness opportunities as a basic human right, so the benefits to behold are more widely available to all in society.
“Engaging with civic society benefits both students and communities, students gain transferrable skills, through researching and learning in a real work environment, while community groups get research evidence to support their work. Such activities improve a student’s capacity for problem-solving and critical thinking whilst, communities are enhanced by students’ energy and engagement with the public good” Dr. Oliver Murphy, President, ITT.