What is the role of Universities?

I have now been working for universities for about 10 years as I started teaching when I first started my PhD. In that time, I have continued to take part in countless public debates and whenever someone feels like they need to point score (generally because they are losing an argument) they revert back to pathetic insults. These include such original statements as: ‘Go back to your ivory tower’ or ‘Those who can, do, those who can’t teach’.


One of the things I have always believed is that universities should be on the front line of political debates. We, as academics, need to wrestle back debates about issues such as asylum seekers and climate change from shock jocks and ill informed bloggers. Being part of the community is the role of universities – not only to respond to needs, but help set the agenda.


This idea of taking part in public debates and being part of the community is known in university language as ‘community engagement‘. It is an aspect that my uni, UWS, takes seriously and encourages it in many ways. Reflecting on the work that I have done in this area, I wrote the attached article for Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement with Prof. Bob Hodge.


Looking at the concept of engagement and a specific project we have worked on, Bob and I discuss what the lessons are and the mistakes we often make. You can download the article by following the link above or clicking on the file here:  Engagement_Arvanitakis and Hodge.pdf


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