The Tempus ESPRIT project aims to analyze, map and strengthen the social and public roles of higher education institutions in Israel. The project shed light on the level of social engagement of Israeli students and their institutions, and developed models for the strengthening of their social responsibility.
Higher education institutions have long been understood as fulfilling three roles; teaching, research and service. While the teaching and research missions have generally taken precedence, an increasing emphasis is placed on the societal contribution of higher education, commonly referred to as “academia’s third role”. In recent decades, questions related to the social responsibility of academia have pre-occupied most developed societies. In Israel, a growing pre-occupation and pro-activism among university and college students has been apparent in recent years.
The University of Brighton’s extensive experience in community and university relations on both institutional, policy and planning level as well as in the practical in field level provided a learning template for the ESPRIT partners. The project was exposed to Brighton’s experience of strategic approaches, planning process, tools and models that were unknown in Israel and which contributed to the projects formulations.
The ESPRIT project, was led by the Bologna Training Center-Centre for the Study of European Politics, together with the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, aimed to analyze, map and strengthen the social and public roles of higher education institutions in Israel. The project shed light on the level of social engagement of Israeli students and their institutions, and develop models for the strengthening of their public responsibility. ESPRIT recognizes that both students and institutions will inevitably play a central part in promoting the societal role of higher education. The project’s activities were therefore guided by a student-institution alliance intended to redefine and deepen the cooperative relationship between them.
In its initial phase, the project saw the development and execution of a country wide survey, mapping the current state of social engagement in Israeli higher education institutions and outlining needs for improvement. The project also saw the development of a model for the design of curricula with a social engagement component. This model was used to develop a number of pilot courses in the Israeli partner institutions. In recent years, Israeli institutions and their faculty have shown increased interest in developing courses which combine theoretical elements with social engagement activities. ESPRIT recognizes that these institutions can and should work together towards common goals, and saw great potential in a collaborative effort for the creation of models for “socially involvedˮ modules.
Finally, ESPRIT aimed to develop a mapping and benchmarking tool to compare university and colleges according to their social missions. Models have been developed to rank higher education institutions academically. To date, these models focus solely on the teaching and research functions of higher education, overlooking the “third roleˮ of academia. ESPRIT aims to add another dimension to the ranking systems; one which recognizes that alongside academic achievements, institutions are also measured by other qualities including social characteristics. The developed benchmarking tool was piloted among Israeli institutions and has the potential to eventually be used internationally. Through its various activities, ESPRIT hopes to influence and improve the higher education system in Israel, strengthening the ties of institutions and their students with the society in which they operate. Moreover, ESPRIT aims to develop models for enhancing social characteristics which can be applied in other higher education systems worldwide.
“Israel is not known for its long-term strategic planning, however the partnership with the University of Brighton has allowed us to learn from their experience in process thinking and in long term strategy…The chance to work with colleagues from the UK has influenced the growth of The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, but in the wider context, it has been very good for Israel’s higher educational system to be exposed to these kinds of processes.”
Dr Eric Zimmerman, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya
Masaryk University Brno, Czech Republic, The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel, Bezalel academy of Arts, Jerusalem, Israel, Center for Higher Education, Berlin, Germany, The European Students’ Union, Brussels, Belgium, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel, Tel Hai Academic College, Upper Galilee, Israel, National Union of Israeli Students, Tel-Aviv, Israe, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK, University of Santiago de Compostella, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Tempus is the European Union’s programme which supports the modernisation of higher education in the Partner Countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Western Balkans and the Mediterranean region, mainly through university cooperation projects.