Assessing University-Society Engagements: Towards a Methodological Framework

Teklu Abate Bekele, Denis Thaddeus Ofoyuru, Emnet Tadesse Woldegiorgis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Higher education institutions pursue three distinct yet interrelated missions of education, knowledge production, and community engagement. Until the last decades of the twentieth century, the third mission, also known as community engagement, has received little attention. Although the third mission generally aims to contribute to the socio-cultural and economic transformations of society, its distinct characteristics are still under-theorized. None of the existing methodological and conceptual frameworks provides a holistic analysis of significant engagement indicators that transcend specific application contexts. Collecting data on university engagement with society and making meaningful interpretations is thus a challenge to researchers and practitioners. To contribute to filling this gap, this modified Delphi study proposes a comprehensive methodological framework of university-society engagements in Africa. The core thesis is that engagement is ubiquitous- university missions and support systems embody it. The framework thus constitutes eight engagement domains aligned with university core functions (teaching, knowledge production, and societal service) and support systems (governance, digitalization, internationalization, partnerships, and sustainability), with 52 items, rating scales, and descriptors. The framework contributes to conceptual and methodological clarity, informs data collection, and interpretations of the different modalities of university engagements. The alignment of engagement domains to university activities and the simplified articulations of the indicators ensure straightforward interpretations and applications of the framework by practitioners and researchers. It is also significant as it comes at a time when universities are expected to contribute more directly and significantly to the realizations of the UN 2030 SDGs and the African Union 2063 centennial development ambitions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-221
Number of pages21
JournalInnovative Higher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • Community engagement
  • Societal service
  • The third mission
  • University mission
  • University-society engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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