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University World News (UWN) continues its pre-conference series of articles previewing the prevalent topics and current trends to be discussed at this year’s Talloires Network Leaders Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. In this piece, UWN highlights the uphill battle to bring civic engagement rewards and incentives to a level of importance similar to other activities such as research output. The article quotes TN members in the United States, Ghana, South Africa, and Chile. Its titled “Rewarding academics for civic engagement gains ground“:

The number of academics who step outside the ivory tower to engage with the community is growing and universities are using a variety of ways to compensate them for doing so. But institutions that recognise and reward this effort are still very much a minority and the reasons why they find it hard to do are complex.

Claire Snyder-Hall, an independent researcher in democratic theory in the United States, recently interviewed 40 academics mainly based in the US who are doing civic engagement. Of these, 14 were not rewarded at all for their work, while 22 got “some form of general institutional reward in that they were able to integrate their community engagement activities into their teaching, research or institutional positions”. Only in four cases was civic engagement being rewarded as a separate activity.

The view from the top would seem to confirm this. Lorlene Hoyt, director of programmes and research at the Talloires Network, has interviewed around 40 heads of universities and their deputies from 20 different countries over the past two years, asking them about how they reward academics for civic engagement.

“Almost all have mentioned that it is a priority, but then they tend to wring their hands and say they don’t do it as well as they would like,” she says. “Out of 40, only one or two could point to significant progress with this.”

For previous coverage of the upcoming TNLC, read “Rapid growth in university engagement worldwide” or “Universities and employability – Preparing for the demands of work“.