Reframing University Continuing Education’s Role in Community Engagement

  • Heather McRae University of Alberta


In Canada, a growing interest within higher education in community engagement practices is evidenced through the establishment of national networks, funding opportunities for community-university research partnerships, and the development of specially designated centres on university campuses. However, based on the literature in continuing education, the role of university continuing education (UCE) units in supporting community engagement is not clear. Many UCE units have been involved and continue to be involved in developing and implementing various types of community engagement activities, yet the work of these units is not widely recognized within the university and the community as contributing substantially to the social purpose mission of the institution. The pressures and tensions relating to balancing the social and economic goals of the UCE unit may be influencing the role of UCE in community engagement. Strategies identified in this article that could assist UCE in embedding community engagement within the practice and in reframing the focus of UCE include the development of a community engagement framework and measurement tools that assess outcomes leading to positive social change.

Author Biography

Heather McRae, University of Alberta
Heather McRae is associate professor and associate dean of engaged learning with the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta. She has extensive experience working in continuing education units in the Okanagan and at the University of Victoria. She has developed curriculum and instructed in an online graduate degree program in community development offered by the School of Public Administration at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include organizational governance, leadership, and community engagement.
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