Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence




Purpose – This paper aims to examine the development and piloting of a novel European framework for community engagement (CE) in higher education, which has been purposefully designed to progress the CE agenda in a European context.

Design/methodology/approach – The proposed framework was co-created through the European Union (EU)-funded project towards a European framework for community engagement in higher education (TEFCE). The TEFCE Toolbox is an institutional self-reflection framework that centres on seven thematic dimensions of CE. This paper follows the development of the TEFCE Toolbox through empirical case study analysis of four European universities and their local communities.

Findings – The findings in this paper indicate that the TEFCE Toolbox facilitates context-specific applications in different types of universities and socioeconomic environments. Incorporating insights from engagement practitioners, students and community representatives the TEFCE Toolbox was successfully applied in universities with diverse profiles and missions. The process facilitated the recognition of CE achievements and the identification of potential areas for improvement.

Originality/value – Despite a range of international initiatives, there remains an absence of initiatives within the European higher education area that focus on developing tools to comprehensively support CE. The TEFCE Toolbox and case-study analysis presented in this paper address this gap in knowledge. The broader societal contribution and social responsibility of higher education have become increasingly prominent on the European agenda. The TEFCE Toolbox represents an innovative, robust and holistic European framework with the potential to support universities in reflecting upon their pursuit of addressing grand societal challenges, whilst promoting CE.



European Commission and Croatian Government’s Office for Cooperation with Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)