Whither engagement? Challenges for community engagement within academia
Despite the commitment to engagement with the broader community that is central to understandings of the role of academics within the university tradition, there are now significant barriers to the performance of this role. Significant changes in the management, funding and priorities of universities (prompted by government policy) have created conditions where community engagement is placed a distant third in the professional lives of contemporary academics behind research and teaching. Some have suggested that community engagement is not just a low priority activity in modern academia, but one that is consciously discouraged through questioned academic freedoms, more tenuous employment circumstances, and restrictive codes of conduct conditions at several universities. In addition, the widespread work intensification that has accompanied these other changes in University management has created significant disincentive to engage in community engagement for early career academics, women with children, and those seeking a healthy work-life balance. This paper argues that while there has been much discussion of the privileging of research over teaching, the value and commitment to community service remains at the margins of reality and debate in Australian universities, and will continue to be while these challenges remain.