In a world of global challenges such as climate change, rapid technological advancement and widening inequality, universities have an important role to play in helping us understand and address the issues facing us. With this in mind, UTS has established a new centre, the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion.
The centre will harness existing efforts from across the university to maximise social impact outcomes across teaching, learning and practice at UTS. It will also serve as a gateway for increased community engagement.
Executive Director, Social Justice at UTS, Verity Firth, said, “It is in the social justice space that universities can do their best work. Our new centre will be the driving mechanism that catalyses, connects, and delivers social change.
“Our vision is for UTS to contribute to the transformation of communities, bringing our unique strengths to bear on the wicked problems we face in the 21st century. In order to do this, we must guard against an ‘ivory tower’ mentality, engage with community and recognise the strengths of community-generated knowledge.”
Universities exist solely for the public good - not just for those who pass through our doors, but those around us, those connected with us, with all society.
UTS Vice-Chancellor Prof Attila Brungs
At the launch of the centre, Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs told guests UTS had had a tradition of social justice and inclusion through various programs. But it wanted to take a more deliberate and focused approach.
“Universities exist solely for the public good - not just for those who pass through our doors, but those around us, those connected with us, with all society.” Professor Brungs said.
“Universities do this in many ways, through the development of our students who go out to shape the world, through our partnerships with the community around us, through the use of our knowledge to solve specific issues or lead public discussion.
“But at UTS we wanted to be even more concrete, even more deliberate and even more focused on how we did this. In a sector of increasingly limited resources, how could we better ensure we were as effective as possible?”
So a team led by Verity Firth had spent the past two years developing an Australian first – a whole-of-university approach to social justice. The Social Impact Framework that resulted was collectively created through the involvement of over 150 staff and students, he noted.
“At its heart is the shared social justice goal of our university – that UTS is an agent for social change, transforming communities through research, education and practice.”
The Social Justice and Inclusion Centre will be the coordinating vehicle for the implementation of the Social Impact Framework across the university, and for driving the university’s social justice agenda more broadly.
It will also oversee the Social Impact Lab, a space which will bring together community partners, academics, policymakers and practitioners to generate meaningful social change.
Representatives from across the education, community and political sectors attended the launch event to celebrate the significant role that universities can play as publicly funded institutions with a mandate to generate transformative knowledge for community benefit.
The event also commemorated the launch of a new partnership between UTS and The Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University (US), who will join forces to manage the e-journal Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement.
Gateways pioneers community-engaged research and inclusion scholarship. With the notion of the university as a civically engaged institution gaining traction, and calls for scholarship to be more inclusive, Gateways’ approach is increasingly relevant in transcending traditional boundaries.
Building on the centre’s work in other areas, the partnership will aim to increase Gateways’ international growth as a global leader in the field of engaged scholarship and practice.