Local universities urged to undertake in community engagement

by S BIRRUNTHA/ pic by TMR

POLICYMAKERS are urging universities to change their educational landscape from focusing heavily on academics to addressing societal issues.

Universiti Malaya (UM) vice chancellor Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim Hashim (picture) said community engagement needs stakeholders’ continuous support and participation from the initial stage.

“Higher education institutions’ role is critical in cultivating future leaders with a mind and heart to drive Malaysia towards a developed country.

“In the past, we have seen institutional missions in social issues such as alleviating widespread poverty, improving public health and enabling locally controlled economic development.

“However, new challenges would arise, therefore these institutions would need to find new and effective ways of developing and applying knowledge for the public good,” he said at the Universiti Malaya Academia Community Engagement 2019 conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He also added that community engagement needs to be encouraged as a long-term goal among local players until the community reaches the “empowerment” stage.

In determining the sustainability and success of a programme, multiple stakeholders’ perspectives also need to be taken into consideration.

“I think the ‘university-community engagement’ collaboration is a two-way process, in which both sides form sustainable relationships.

“The collaboration must aim to mobilise and combine university knowledge and community experience to address social disadvantage and to promote the idea of a fair society,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry’s student development division director Dr Zaid Omar said the ministry has been focusing on initiatives to help the local communities.

“On Jan 14, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik in his new year’s speech emphasised that education is a dialogue process.

“We understand that the basis of education is to produce younger generations who are helpful and useful to the society.

“I do believe that education is everyone’s responsibility, and it has to bring some kind of solution to the social issues we are facing in the community today,” he said in a discussion at the conference.

Zaid further added that the collaboration between university and community can produce good citizens, as well as professionals in the work environment.

Recently, UM has come up with a framework of community engagement with the aim of exchanging knowledge and enabling learning which benefits the community.

UM has divided community engagement activities into five categories namely teaching and learning; integration of research, exchange and use of knowledge including industry co-operation; community participation; access and services; and institutional and resource development.

In September 2013, UM launched the “UM Community Connection Policy” to provide a framework where all campus residents would be informed and provided in-depth recognition of their community service activities.

It is to provide support to these activities, as well as effectively manage and integrate the process of community integration in research, teaching and learning.