Panel D.10 — Universities’ Public Engagement and Social Justice

Convenors Roberto Moscati (Università di Milano Bicocca, Italy); Stefano Boffo (IRPPS-CNR. Italy); Barbara Gruning (Università di Milano Bicocca, Italy)

Keywords University, Third Mission, Public Engagement, Social Justice


– In recent times, universities are the more and more asked to review their roles because of the growing requests coming from society. The growing health problems, the changing rhythms of individual and collective life, the national and transnational mobility, the economic crisis, the climate change defined new social and cultural needs which have increased the tasks of Academia towards the social environment beyond the use of the scientific knowledge for the economic and technological development.

The global dimension and the accelerated pace of these phenomena has required the development of new models for interpreting the changing processes, but – above all – the direct intervention of knowledge-producing institutions in sectors socially in crisis.

The university activities defined as “Third Mission” extend progressively, more and more including different aspects of community life.

The university’s opening to relations with the economic and political world (industry and government) that defines the “triple helix” has now expanded to civil society (“quadruple helix”) as well as to themes of sustainable development going hand in hand with different forms of assuming social responsibility (“quintuple helix”).

– The opening of the university to the outreach activities generate consequences on its internal organization, as well as on professional roles and duties of academics, technical and administrative staff, but increasingly also on doctoral and graduate students.

– On the whole, the multiplication of Public Engagement initiatives seems to indicate a growing awareness – by the universities from one side, and by the external institutions from the other – of the feasibility of academic answers to the plea for a reduction of social differences and territorial inequalities. The analysis of this process with all its peculiar characteristics – including its influence on the teaching and research activities – it’s worth to be developed.

– In the Italian higher education system, each university – although in various ways taking care of the guidelines coming from the “Italian National Agency for the Evaluation of Universities and Research Institutes” (Anvur) – makes use of the new outreach activities according to approaches and methods extensively related to their own scientific disciplines, the policy of their governance as well as the social, economic and cultural characteristics of their environment.

– Abstracts are invited to present results of academic projects and activities related to Public (Social) Engagement as well as to other analogous “extended third mission” initiatives which have been successful; proposals analyzing and trying to understand the reasons for unsuccessful projects are also welcome.


Guidelines and abstracts submission