Reframing University Continuing Education’s Role in Community Engagement

Heather McRae


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.

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