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Contribution of university social outreach experiences to the improvement of academic quality and factors which limit their development and institutional valuation

This article discusses some contributions to the improvement of academic quality achieved by university teams through their extra-curricular activities carried out in collaboration with communities and social organizations. It also examines some factors that limit its further development and institutional appreciation. The research is based on over two hundred experiences, from forty Argentine public universities, developed by teams constituted by professors and students from different disciplines, some of them interdisciplinary, in varied social contexts. Some of these experiences are conceptualized by their participants in terms of university extension, social reach, service learning, action-research, or university voluntary work. Their common characteristic is that all of them have received support from the University Voluntary Program of the Secretary of University Policies, of the Ministry of Education of Argentina. The research leads to conclude that this kind of experiences not only contribute to enhancing the quality of life of involved social groups, but also the professional training provided by universities, as well as the quality of the research carried by these teams. Nevertheless, experiences of this kind usually are not institutionally valued. This makes advisable that universities and university evaluation agencies include this orientations of work as an important element of university activities, as well as that they enhance the value attribute to them in research policies and teacher performance assessment. Despite this research is based on some experiences developed from Argentine universities, the problem in question is not limited to this country, because it is related to some worldwide social processes, which are associated to certain institutional cultures, some policies, and the increasing impact of International University League Tables.

Higher education; Evaluation; Quality; Research; University outreach

Publicação da Rede de Avaliação Institucional da Educação Superior (RAIES), da Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) e da Universidade de Sorocaba (UNISO). Rodovia Raposo Tavares, km. 92,5, CEP 18023-000 Sorocaba - São Paulo, Fone: (55 15) 2101-7016 , Fax : (55 15) 2101-7112 - Sorocaba - SP - Brazil