The UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education and the British Council partnered to hold a series of educational dialogues, focused on “Community Engagement in Higher Educational Institutions”. One of them was held at the Punjab University (PU), Chandigarh, India, on the 6th and the 7th of March’ 2014. Prior to the dialogue series and as a prologue to the event, a comprehensive survey was conducted in PU, to tap the current and existential level of community engagement being practices by the affiliated colleges of the Universities. This data provided a platform for the discussions to be taken forward during the dialogue.
The chief guest at the dialogue were Dr Michael Osborne, Chair & professor, University of Glasgow; Dr Emma McKenna, Science Shop Co-ordinator, Queen’s University’ Belfast; and Dr Jennifer Chambers, Senior Policy Manager, Research Councils, UK.
The dialogue was organized with multiple aims including assessing current levels and quality of community engagement, analyzing best practices and meanings of social responsibility as practiced in India, innovative policies and practices in the UK in the field of public engagement and social responsibility and also to identify strategies to scale up community engagement as per the 12th five year plan.
The first day of the event had four distinct sessions. The day began with the welcome address delivered by Professor Ronki Ram, Dean Faculty of Arts and Director ICSSR. In his welcome address he extended a very warm welcome to the delegates and invited them for an involved brain storming during the course of the event. The event was also graced by the presence of the vice-chancellor Prof Arun k. Grover who in his inaugural address deliberated on the cruciality and significance of such events in the educational realm of today. He also encouraged the delegates to come up with a draft document at the end of the event so that it can be circulated among all the departments of the university to yield some concrete output. Ms. Manjula Rao gave a brief overview of the British Council portfolio in Higher Education and familiarized with the objectives of the course. Dr. Rajesh Tandon, UNESCO, chaired the session and highlighted in his address the need to internalise community engagement in all faculties as part of the curriculum, to incentivise it and include it as a criterion for accreditation of universities.
The first plenary session, Trends in Punjab, was chaired by Prof.Sween, Head Department of Life Long Learning and Extension. Professor Ronki Ram, shared and discussed the findings of a survey on community participation and engagement conducted by Panjab University. He quoted many indigenous anecdotes and in his own inimitable style concluded that there is need to put a demarcation between social service and community education. The lecture was followed by an Open discussion and comments from the chair Dr Sween.
Dr.Swaranjit Kaur, Chairperson, Centre for Human Rights, Chandigarh Chaired the Second Plenary Session: ‘Forms and structure of Community Engagement’. Dr Emma McKenna, Science shop co-ordinator, Queens University Belfast and Workpackage Leader on the Public Engagement with Research and Research Engagement with Society (PERARES) project, spoke on ‘Science Shops’. Dr.Paramjit Singh Kang, Department of Life Long Learning and Extension, and Dr. Michael Osborne, Chair and Professor, department of Life Long Learning and Education, University of Glasgow, also expressed their views on the topic. Through their deliberations, the delegates ventured into the logistics of community engagement initiative across Europe called ‘Science Shops’ and the need for an accepted definition of the word ‘community’.
The last session saw small group discussions and brainstorming sessions on “Forms and Structures of Community engagement” which were based on the contributions and deliberations of day.
The second and concluding day of the event began with the Reporting session moderated by Ms. Lynne Heslop, Senior Education Adviser, British council who very succinctly moderated the reports presented by the delegates and based on the deliberations and inputs of the previous day concluded that recognition, respect and values along with the academic foundation and back-up are imperative in community engagement. The review was followed by a session on Policy implications in which Dr. Jennifer Chambers, Senior Policy Manager with RCUK and Mr. Zulfiqar Khan, President, Theatre Age, Govt. High School shared their inputs. Mr. Zulfiqar Khan, a philanthropist and theatre personality demonstrated his contribution to community as he shared his involvement work with the children who earn their livelihood by taking up the profession of shoe polishing. The session was chaired by Prof. Manvinder Kaur, chairperson from Dept. of Women Studies.
The day ended with ruminating session including the summing up and consolidation of the discussions, inputs and deliberations held over the two days.
Picture: Participants at the dialogue.
Picture: Dr Arun Kumar Grover (Vice-Chancellor, Punjab University) delivering the inaugural address.
Picture : Dr Rajesh Tandon (UNESCO Chair, New Delhi) introducing the recently launched GUNi World Report 5 on “Knowledge, Engagement & Higher Education: Contributing to Social Change”
Picture: Session on “Forms & Structures of Community Engagement”. On the dias, Dr Emma McKenna (Science Shop Co-ordinator, Queen’s University, Belfast); Dr Michael Osborne (Chair & Professor, University of Glasgow); Dr Sween (Chairperson, Department of Lifelong Learning & Extension, Punjab University)
Picture: Dr Jennifer Chambers (Senior Policy Manager, UK), delivering a presentation on Public Engagement with Research in the UK. On the dias, Dr Manvinder Kaur (Chairperson, Department of Women’s Studies, Punjab University); Mr Zulfiqar Khan (President, Theatre Age, Chandigarh).
Picture : Dr Michael Osborne, giving a presentation on “Community Engagement in Europe”.