Service engagement of the contemporary university: towards a new understanding through a comparative study of Middlesex University (UK) and the University for Development Studies (Ghana).
PhD thesis, Middlesex University.
University institutions are becoming fluid with different missions and functions. It is argued that most universities mission statements involve teaching, research and service. While the teaching and research missions are clearly defined and situated within certain areas of the university activities, service is less clear and ambiguous, yet assuming an increasingly important and central slogan in many higher education institutions' publicity or 'marketing' strategies. The concept of service is understood differently in the university context. While it is understood in particular contexts as one of the
functions of higher education apart from teaching and research; in others it is viewed as an 'inverted donut' supporting the core activities of teaching and research; administrative; customer service; civic duty or collegial support. This study examins the service concept through a comparative study of Middlesex University (UK) and University for Development Studies (Ghana) with the aim of understanding the place of service in the university, whether it is a function in addition to the teaching and research functions or not. it is also aimed at reinterpreting the concept within the current higher education delivery.
Designed as a qualitative study using documentary sources, semi structured interviews and artefacts to generate data, two interrelated conceptual perspectives informed this research: the moderate constructivist and critical pluralistic perspectives that served as guides and a window through which the service concept is understood. An important methodological characteristic of the study is the use of two interrelated approaches: direct
and indirect. The direct concerned understanding the views (direct opinion) of individual academics through interviews, and the indirect involved the use of interviews, national and institutional policy documents and artefacts to gain general information about the cases for further analyses. In addition, it is a comparative study, which uses data from three interrelated levels- macro,
intermediary and micro; representing general, national/regional/local, and institutional sources respectively. The study concludes that service is a broad
concept that covers the core activities of teaching, research and community engagement and entrepreneurial activities rather than occupies a place as a function. Based on the evidence, a coherent explanation and interpretation of the concept lmking it to higher education contexts, philosophies, shades of services, and suggested service university models has been presented.
Despite this, the concept remains complex, its interpretation influenced by contexts, and difficult to generalise due to the acknowledgeably different and
contrasting dimensions of interpretation ranging from Western/non-Western, Direct/Indirect and Public/Private to Rhetoric/non-Rhetoric dimensions. However, the question of what service is in the university context is likely to
remain a debatable issue.
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