Rethinking university engagement to address local priority needs within the context of community development: a case study

Mbah, M. (2014) Rethinking university engagement to address local priority needs within the context of community development: a case study. Ph.D. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.


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The context of the work of universities, in Cameroon is one of high levels of poverty, scarcities and uncertain and fragile economies. Yet, the actual and potential role of universities in such a context, in relation to its civic responsibilities, remains unclear. The research offers a case study of one particular university, in a predominantly rural area of the country; and using qualitative enquiry methods, it engaged, dialogically, with diverse samples of people living in the area, and those working in the university. The aim was to build a systematic understanding of how people construct the existing and potential role of the university, and what might be required to meet their aspirations and desires in more developed and dialogical ways. Based on interviews, focus groups, observations and documents reviewed, specific methodologies by which the university’s contribution to community development can be enhanced, with particular emphasis on community-based service learning, but also community-based research and community-based adult education was to be articulated.

This research found that although the community has priority needs, and the university’s engagement can fundamentally be a force for community transformation, it seldom consist of objectives and processes aimed at addressing these needs due to lack of interconnections within the university and between the university and the local community. This thesis therefore argues that by complementing the university’s engagement activities in the community with interconnections with the community but also within the university, uneven power relations and communication gaps existing within the university and between the university and different segments of the local community which had hitherto limited the university’s engagement from addressing local needs can be mitigated. It also maintains that through commitment to engagement and embracing a collaborative form; broadening participation; adopting relevant channels to ascertain community ideas and needs; operating accessible community centres; researching local concerns such as water supply, agricultural systems and electricity generation and customising educational programmes to demonstrate local and global relevance, the interconnected university can be epitomised. Furthermore, through interconnections within its community, as well as with the wider community and its concerns, the university can be seen not only as an agent of community development but also fostering mutually beneficial engagement.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: Faculty of Education
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2015 15:48
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 11:56

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00