On Friday 8 July, the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification opens in Australia. For the first time, Australian universities will get the opportunity to earn accreditation for their extraordinary commitments to public purpose in service to their communities, outside of what is captured in academic rankings.

The classification is the gold standard for the assessment and recognition of community engagement in higher education. It is extensively used in the US and is expanding its global reach through an internationalisation programme, spearheaded by Australia.

The idea of universities as anchor institutions is not new. Universities have a vital role to play in the community. We are public purpose institutions, and by working with and alongside those in our local precinct, we can contribute to large scale social impact and positive change.

In the context of the past two years – where some of society’s biggest and most difficult challenges have come to a head – it could not be a better time for the Australian higher education sector to adopt the Carnegie Foundation’s classification.

Why apply?

This elective classification provides a path for universities to gain recognition for institutionalising community engagement.

Currently used by nearly 500 US campuses, the classification allows universities to demonstrate their commitment to serving communities through a rigorous self-study, and to share effective practice.

Involvement in the initiative drives universities to show reciprocity in their partnerships with communities – where both the university and community are transformed by the partnership.

For our team at UTS, the underpinning framework of the classification makes it a stand-out against other community-engaged initiatives.

The Carnegie framework provides an excellent foundation for investigating effective community-university engagement, as well as how to track progress against this.

The Australian pilot

Charles Sturt University and UTS co-led Australia’s pilot between 2018–2020, with ten Australian universities participating and a further eight observing.

Pilot universities undertook a rigorous and independent warranting of their university’s commitment to, and investment in, community engagement.

The Australian pilot cohort have adapted the classification to fit our local context. In particular, the Australian classification centres a commitment for all Australian higher education institutions to the advancement and self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Australian model is unique globally in that it encourages collaboration and capability-building amongst member universities. Members of the Australian Carnegie network form a community of practice and are supported with a capacity building programme to grow engagement and strengthen community-integrated learning across the sector.

The international reach of the Carnegie framework also allows for the Australian cohort to participate in an extensive and expanding global community of like-minded institutions to learn from, with, and through each other.

The US Executive Director of the Carnegie Elective Classifications, Marisol Morales, says Australia’s entry into the classification system will influence the global network of participating higher education institutions.

She writes, “Australia has a long history of community engagement and service learning in its higher education institutions, and the introduction of the Carnegie Community Engagement Elective is an inflection point for the institutionalisation of community engagement and the quest for institutional transformation.

“This new addition to the Electives family provides an expansion that is based in local context especially with its inclusion of Indigenous communities. We are excited about what this means for Australia and for our engagement field globally.”

Join the early adopters

From July 8, Australian universities can sign up for the classification through a process coordinated by Engagement Australia’s Network for Community Engagement and Carnegie Classification.

Eleven Australian universities have already signed up: * Australian Catholic University * Australian National University * Flinders University * La Trobe University * Uni Melbourne * Uni Queensland * Uni Sunshine Coast * UTS  * Uni Sydney * Victoria U * Western Sydney U

The launch could not have come at a more important time. We are facing unprecedented times, where complex challenges such as the pandemic or the bush fires are becoming part of our everyday.

The Carnegie pilot highlighted how, and to what extent, universities are taking up their public purpose role in response to these challenges. The ongoing classification program and the capacity building offerings that complements it will help us set an agenda for growth, bringing mutual benefit through partnership and change.

More information is HERE 

 Verity Firth, is  PVC (Social Justice and Inclusion) at UTS. She chairs the National Advisory Committee for the Network for Community Engagement and Carnegie Classification Australia


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