Traditionally, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have the mandate of undertaking teaching, training and learning; research, innovation and scholarship; and, outreach/community development. Amongst these mandates outreach is often considered autonomous of the teaching function which subsequently receives more preeminence amongst universities. However, beyond considering universities as places where teaching and research occur, they must be recognized as a valuable intellectual resource that directly and intentionally contributes to national issues and priorities. Universities ought to be better known as knowledge hubs and catalysts for future prosperity, wellbeing and sustainable development. This therefore justified the rationale for several universities including Gulu and Egerton Universities devising strategies for incorporating community engagement into the training curricular in order to equip students with practical skills in their fields of study. This document explores the value and experiences garnered by Gulu and Egerton University students in a field attachment undertaking in several locations in Uganda and Kenya under the support of RUFORUM. The study was descriptive and qualitative in nature, providing narrative summary of student experiences in community engagement. The key question investigated was whether community engagement has helped students to develop explicit university graduate attributes. The study revealed that students appreciated community engagement as an effective strategy for imparting real and applicable skills including technical skills, management & planning skills, communication skills, people skills and cognitive skills. Student attachments to communities therefore need to be intensified to amongst several elements enable students harvest the much-needed skills vital in maintaining and securing durable relationships between universities and the farming communities.
Date of publication:
RUFORUM Working document series