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Conceptual framework for Social Responsiveness

Scope of Social Responsiveness

In 2006 UCT’s Senate adopted a definition of social responsiveness reflecting the view that UCT should not seek to define the concept of Social Responsiveness in a narrow or exclusionary fashion, but should rather adopt broad parameters for its conceptualisation encompassing contributions to economic, cultural, environmental, and social development. The term ’social responsiveness’ has been chosen given the emphasis in the mission on engaging with key development issues facing the country through its research and teaching. This approach was formally endorsed in 2006 when the university Senate approved a definition of social responsiveness that stipulated that social responsiveness must have an intentional public purpose or benefit (UCT, 2006).

The term ‘social responsiveness’ is used as an umbrella term to refer to all forms of engagement with external non-academic constituencies. The umbrella term embraces engaged scholarship involving academic staff, civic engagement involving students’ community service, and professional engagement involving PASS staff using their professional expertise. It does not cover civic and outreach activities of staff that are not linked to their disciplinary or professional expertise (see definition below). Nor does it encompass work with academic constituencies such as external examining, editing of peer-reviewed journals etc. This is not to devalue the importance of academic engagement with other academic staff and academic peers – something which provides some of the lifeblood of an institution defined as a ‘university’. Rather, the concern with engagement (based on solid disciplinary or professional expertise) with non-academic constituencies is meant to provide a sound complement to the activities of engagement with academic constituencies.

2.1.1 Engaged scholarship (ES)

Within these broad parameters the policy adopts a view that academic engagement with external constituencies should be based on scholarship. Scholarship is “the thoughtful creation, interpretation, communication, or use of knowledge that is based in the ideas of the disciplines, professions, and interdisciplinary fields. What qualifies an activity as ‘scholarship’ is that it should be deeply informed by (the activity of) accumulating knowledge in some field, that the knowledge is skilfully interpreted and deployed, and that the activity is carried out with intelligent openness to new information, debate, and criticism”.

ES as a form of SR refers to the utilisation of an academic’s scholarly and/or professional expertise, with an intentional public purpose or benefit (which) demonstrates engagement with external (non-academic) constituencies. It can help to generate new knowledge, promote knowledge integration, the application of knowledge, or the dissemination of knowledge.

In terms of this approach, for example, if an academic in a transport studies department provides workshops for external audiences on how to facilitate more efficient city transport networks or helps to shape policies for strengthening public transport, he/she would be drawing from his/her scholarly expertise. This meets the requirements of engaged scholarship. If that very same academic serves as a treasurer of a school governing body, s/he would not be involved in ES, as the expertise required to perform the duties of a treasurer do not relate directly to his/her discipline or research and teaching field. The latter activity can be described as civic engagement and the academic may not use this activity for reporting on social responsiveness activities at the university for promotion or other academic award purposes. Consultancy work undertaken as part of the activities of a unit/centre/grouping ’ by an academic based on his/her scholarly expertise, is classified under this policy as ‘social responsiveness’ for purposes of UCT promotion or other academic awards.

If the activities are carried out as paid private work they will not be considered as meeting SR criteria for the purposes of promotion or other academic awards.

2.1.2 Civic engagement

Students engage with external constituencies in three different ways:

  1. compulsory community service due performance (DP) requirements;
  2. student voluntary community service;
  3. As part of the formal curriculum e.g. as part of service learning.

All three forms are encouraged by the university as they provide students with opportunities to engage around real life problems and thereby potentially help nurture a commitment to critical and active citizenship.

2.1.3 Social Responsiveness for Pass staff

This covers activities where PASS staff engages with external constituencies using their professional expertise.