Three years ago the General Secretariat of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) suggested launching a vast study on Catholic universities’ social responsibility (USR) throughout the world. Indeed, one of the Federation’s distinctive features is studying subjects comparatively and therefore from a resolutely international and multicultural perspective.
Given the global challenges facing higher education, it seemed relevant to ask how, in the different countries where our member universities are present, this notion of social responsibility is translated, understood and, of course, implemented.
For universities for whom examining their Catholic identity provides a permanent stimulus it was also interesting to study the way in which the order of values and sometimes norms presented in Catholic social teaching could be institutionalised and put into practice within universities’ policies and their engagement with their ecosystems. At a time when Pope Francis never ceases to call on Catholic universities to bring head, heart, and hands together, meaning that research and teaching must find concrete extensions for the purpose of improving life in our societies and paying more sustained attention to all those living on the margins, this research on social responsibility also reminds us of the importance of the engagement of the university as a community of teaching, research, and services in a world marked by globalisation, with all its advantages but also less desirable developments.
Thus, under the guidance of Dr Montserrat Alom, the Director of our International Centre for Research and Decision Support (CIRAD), an international team of researchers as well as consultants were called upon to define the meaning of Catholic universities’ social responsibility. The result is a Reference Framework, Newman’s Benchmarking Framework,
which is probably the best and most comprehensive frame of reference on this issue to date. This paper is concretely intended to help our member universities to embark on a process of assessing their practices in this field and comes in support of the training courses that IFCU offers on University Social Responsibility. We hope it will kickstart a fruitful and useful approach for our universities working to serve society.
Dr François Mabille
Secretary General of IFCU