Socially-responsible university in times of crisis – a comparison of case studies

Abedin, Manzoorul ORCID: (2021) Socially-responsible university in times of crisis – a comparison of case studies. In: BERA Annual Conference 2021, September 2021, London. (In Press)

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How do a modern university with local and global reputation come to the service of communities in which it is housed – is the central question that binds together two case studies from England and India for this paper. The case studies are set in the backdrop of a global pandemic that forced universities to close or resort to distant learning with no or little consideration to access to device, internet or study space for students. This paper reports on and synthesises two case studies from different socio-economic contexts but essentially responding to the same crisis in a bid to become ‘socially responsible’ university. University’s social responsibility is a heterogeneous and multifaceted concept particularly when corporatisation, and a university’s local, national and international influences are factored in. The paper compares the case studies in terms of how two different universities with varying degrees of local and global social responsibilities have/had mobilised university–community engagement with local schools and communities through research, outreach and engagement programmes aimed at mitigating the disadvantages imposed by the global pandemic. The authors were directly involved in the engagement programmes for their respective universities and data for the case studies were collected using survey questionnaire, interviews and focus group discussions. The methodological approach was grounded in the understandings and experiences of respondents and privileges local knowledge to accommodate the complexity of programme targets for two contextually different universities. Findings suggest useful insights into understanding the dynamics of power relations and local/global prioritisation in the ways university–community engagement was undertaken. Moreover, research and outreach engagements have reflected the trend towards corporate-inspired measures of performance targets and market influence in displaying university’s local and global ‘social responsibility’. However, the pandemic crisis has forced universities of various local and global clout to fast-track or rethink their engagement strategies in order to produce positive outcomes for schools and communities – local, global or both. On one hand, as our case studies reveal, universities do it to benefit their brand recognition; on the other, to establish a good standing in the community. This raises questions about how universities balance their social responsibility as agents of change between global and local, and between marketing paradigm and conscience of social justice.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Education
Education > Higher education
Depositing User: Manzoorul Abedin
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2021 08:16
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:15

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