Exploring conceptual models for community engagement at higher education institutions in South Africa

15 Apr 2008

A critical conceptual analysis of the South African Higher Education context reflects the lack of a structural and functional framework for the conceptualisation of community engagement (CE) in higher education. The purpose of this article is to explore a framework and model for the conceptualisation of CE for a better understanding of community engagement at higher education institutions in South Africa. The research methodology was a qualitative conceptual analysis using purposive sampling. Textual data were analysed by means of interpretative content analysis in a mainly inductive fashion. A conceptual framework and the silo, intersecting and infusion (cross-cutting) models for CE are presented and the attributes of a community-engaged university stated. The conceptual analysis of CE (curricular and research-related and non-curricular) contributes to the notion that engagement is a fundamentally dynamic and relational process (partnership); it "happens" at multiple levels of higher education institutions and in multiple sites in and over time; all human relationships and engagements involve a political and an ethical dimension; and engagement is a fundamentally educative practice.