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ECIU and UT partners in an EU project on community engagement by universities

The European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) and the University of Twente will take part in a European research project on improving community engagement in higher education. The project will receive funding (€ 500,000) from the Erasmus+ programme, an EU funding scheme supporting education, training, youth and sport.

The consortium for the collaborative project ‘Towards a European framework for community engagement of higher education’ (TEFCE) consists of 13 partners from across Europe and is coordinated by the Technical University of Dresden.

Societal impact

In line with the vision of the ECIU, the TEFCE project aims to contribute to social innovation by improving the level of community engagement undertaken by higher educational institutions. The members of the ECIU are mostly universities that are located in regions where major industries have declined. They have a wealth of experience in community building, having already been actively involved in the regeneration of their region over the past decades.

The partners want to encourage universities to work in close relationships with policymakers, businesses, local governments and civil society. The innovative approach enables students to learn by participating in projects and includes external stakeholders in the curriculum. The collaboration with external stakeholders also supports the entrepreneurial spirit of students, as well as enhancing their employability, and encourages access to university for people who have lower levels of education.

The project strives to promote social innovation through a knowledge triangle comprised of education, research and innovation. A toolbox will be developed, with innovative means for policymakers and stakeholders to monitor, measure and promote community engagement by universities that will be transferable at a European policy level.

ECIU and UT

As a collaboration between 12 research-intensive universities, the ECIU is unified in its emphasis on innovation, creativity and societal impact. ECIU President Victor van der Chijs: “ECIU is building strong international relations on innovation and entrepreneurship. At the same time, all of the partner universities are deeply rooted in their own region, strengthening their role in society and enhancing socio-economic development. This new project underlines the responsibility we take in this.”

The ECIU will contribute to the TEFCE project with expertise in related projects, as well as their international network of over 330,000 students and 50,000 staff involved in the dissemination and exploitation of the results in Europe. The project will be part of the ECIU Steering Committee Entrepreneurship and Societal Impact of Research (ESIR) and benefit from the experience of the institutional experts of that committee.

The role of the University of Twente

The UT, which is a member of the ECIU, will act as a project partner and a pilot institution, with its know-how in innovation and impact at the regional level. A researcher from the Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS), a worldwide leading education policy research institute at the UT, will participate in the project’s Expert Team. Professor Paul Benneworth, senior researcher at CHEPS, will work on developing a proposal for an innovative toolbox on community engagement by merging existing research, policy and practice.

The project administrator, Angela Bloo-Heuven, will also be involved in the operational and financial management, evaluation and dissemination of the results of the project. In addition, the UT will host a peer-learning session on existing practices of enhancing community engagement.

For further questions please contact Dr. Paul Benneworth.

Hanna Dinkelbach
Press relations (available Mon-Thu)