Increasing understanding of the importance of community engagement by universities is a key aim of the new President of the Australian University Community Engagement Alliance (AUCEA).
Associate Professor Martin Fitzgerald, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Corporate Development and Community Partnerships at the University of Newcastle, has recently been elected to lead the flagship body.
Associate Professor Fitzgerald said community engagement focuses on collaborations between higher education institutions and their business and other communities to address a community need, problem or aspiration.
"It is very much centred on the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a partnership centred on reciprocity," he said.
"Issues such as climate change and student demand for new approaches to achieving global solutions means we need additional ways of approaching teaching and research.
"Universities and their communities each hold a wealth of knowledge and there is no better way of maximising impact than to work together in partnership to address real-world issues through the integration of such engagement within the teaching curriculum and research agenda.
"It is this integration of scholarly pursuit with the engagement focus that has become known as 'engaged scholarship'."
Through his Presidency of AUCEA, Associate Professor Fitzgerald aims to increase the visibility and profile of community engagement; increase the quality of discourse around engaged scholarship and help universities to continuously improve their engagement strategies.
"My priorities are to broaden the leadership base of AUCEA, generate debate about how we embed community engagement in academic pursuit and forge a genuine understand of the mutual benefit of engagement," he said.
AUCEA was formed in 2003 to bring together Australian universities to talk about why they interact with their local communities through initiatives including community based research, service-learning, partnerships and professional staff development.
More than 30 Australian universities are now members of the Alliance.
AUCEA's role is to promote the direct and mutually beneficial interaction between universities and communities. It aims to be the leading national forum encouraging collaboration, innovation and the exchange of knowledge.