University social responsibility and academic social capital in Tunisia

Temporin, Simone (2016) University social responsibility and academic social capital in Tunisia. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Revolutionary movements emerged from the “Arab spring” have determined undergoing socio-political changes in the region with significant implications and impacts on democratic transition and future sustainability. In this framework, the study explores Tunisian public universities’ social dimension and democratic implications of institutional partnerships in cooperation with local communities. In particular, it examines institutional, academic and students’ social responsibility as central elements of universities’ missions and students’ education. Existing complex dynamics linking social responsibility, social capital and democracy are considered within university contexts, taking also into consideration the role of Islam and Islamic values. In fact, university and students’ social responsibility have the potential to contribute to the redefinition of a post-revolution public sphere inspired by democratic participation and society-wide shared norms. Change in government policies affecting freedom of expression, restricted associational rights and political participation might result in institutional autonomy, allowing universities to fulfil their role in society while responding to economic and socio-cultural challenges.

The study involved a sample of academic professors and students from Humanities and Engineering faculties from one public university. Research fieldwork was conducted combining qualitative and quantitative data collection. Questionnaires were employed to gather information from undergraduate students to explore university social responsibility, social capital creation, students’ identity formation, Islam and democracy. Interviews were used both to obtain insights from students and professors to consider their perceptions and self-awareness of social responsibility, while deepening contextual knowledge. Furthermore, official government documents and government policies in relation to higher education reforms were also consulted.

In particular, the research points out the development of a structured under-utilisation of social capital for social responsibility. Government political control and socio-cultural censorship, as well as HE policies and legal frameworks have limited universities’ autonomy and their social dimension, restricting opportunities for students’ political and civic engagement in society. These aspects have also affected the provision of education for democracy and civic engagement courses; extra-curricular volunteering programs; as well as, support for community partnerships. Furthermore, Islamic associations’ social, political and cultural role has been under governmental control resulting in fragmented, marginal and often antagonist contributions to democracy and social responsibility. As such, in Tunisia, since the independence, the regime have hindered the development of a shared culture based on civically and politically active citizenship for the stabilisation and reproduction of democratic attitudes, behaviours and habits.

Research findings present reflections and implications in relation to universities’ third mission in Tunisia to advance institutional and students’ autonomy to fulfil their wider civic role in society. Furthermore, suggestions for future research in the field have been made as a way to advance knowledge and provide information to support future policies and reforms.

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Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: McGrath, Simon
Cooker, Lucy
Morgan, John
Keywords: Universities, Tunisia, Social responsibility, Democracy
Subjects: L Education > LA History of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 33893
Depositing User: Temporin, Simone
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2017 08:41
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2018 09:00

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