CHER 2020 Call for Proposals: Engaged Universities

cher conference

The 33rd Annual Conference of the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers – CHER will be jointly organised by the University of Rijeka (Croatia) and NUI Galway (Ireland), with their home cities both being European Capitals of Culture 2020. The conference will take place in Rijeka/Opatija, on September 2-4, 2020.

Theme: Engaged Universities(De)constructing the Theory, Practice and Culture of Engagement in Higher Education

This year’s conference has several aims. First, to critically discuss theories behind the notion of engaged higher education institutions (HEIs). Second, to critically discuss methods employed in research and assessment on the engaged HEIs. Thirdly, to discuss the relevance of recent theoretical and methodological developments in interdisciplinary context of research on engaged HEIs.

With this in mind, the conference organisers invite all interested researchers to join us in discussing and reflecting on how HEIs are coping with the (new) demands placed upon them, and how the various dimensions of change are intertwined, while (de)constructing the theory, practice and culture of engagement in higher education.

The conference will have four tracks – three thematic ones and an Open track.

Track 1: Theoretical, conceptual, and methodological challenges

The questions arising under this theme are ample and would include: What is an engaged university? How can we deploy theoretical and conceptual tools to advance our thinking and knowledge on this issue and the challenges that come with it? How can we effectively rethink the role, place and nature of governance, policy, and various actors and stakeholders in and around higher education? What kind of challenges do contemporary times pose to the well-established understandings of the historical role(s) of universities and higher education more generally? In what way and to what extent could higher education affect wider social dynamics and address the challenges of the contemporary world? How can disciplinary knowledge be especially of use here? What is the state of research method in contemporary higher education research and how can we improve it to better meet the challenges of studying an engaged university and engagement in academic more generally? Contributions discussing various disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches in constructing and deconstructing the notion of an engaged higher education institution are especially welcome under this theme.

Track 2: Policy and practice-oriented challenges

The discussion under this perspective is open for contributions around specific local/regional/ national/ global issues and challenges pertaining to the practice of engagement in HE. Empirical studies on how different approaches have been employed and embedded within academic core pillars (teaching and research), as well as those focusing on the role of academics and students are welcomed. Some of the crucial questions in this theme would be: How do higher education systems and HEIs negotiate tensions between excellence and engagement, between rigour and relevance? How is, and whether it is at all, higher education responding to global crises and challenges – refugees, poverty, terrorism, climate change, SDGs, and so forth? Are HEIs actually tackling the more controversial aspects of these challenges or is it staying with the “safer” ones? Is academia critical or critical enough? What theories are readily applicable to investigating the role of higher education in terms of an engagement agenda and practice? How can theory advance an ethos and culture of engagement? What is the state of knowledge on the impact of higher education on society at large and especially with regards to this theme.

Track 3: Culture of engagement in higher education and conceptual challenges

The discussion under this perspective is open for more idiosyncratic, cultural and contextual approaches to the engaged university – moving from generic to the diverse. Some of the issues of interest in this theme would be around the historical perspectives on (diss)engagement, as well as around conceptualising both the pathway of institutionalisation and the role university leaders play in shaping and transforming the culture of engagement. How do mission statements, strategic plans, leadership rhetoric, organisational structures, curricula, promotion and tenure practices, hiring guidelines, external communications, capital campaigns, various assessment exercises and rankings ‘communicate’ the culture of engagement? Moving from global to the ‘glocal’ higher education? Contributions discussing organisational culture that can explain why some institutions embrace engagement, why some of them struggle with the change process, and why some deny such shifts in the organisation’s culture are welcomed.

Open Track: Core themes in higher education research

This track is meant to accommodate high-quality contributions pursuing themes of continuing relevance in higher education research that do not have a specific fit within mentioned perspectives and are not explicitly connected to the main theme of the conference. This track is equally important and welcomes papers from a wide range of perspectives in the field of higher education research.

Submitting Proposals

Participants are invited to submit a paper, panel proposals or posters of relevance for the conference theme. Paper presentation refers to a presentation delivered by one to two authors or collaborators on a particular research topic. Panel presentation refers to a series of 3-4 presentations delivered by a group of authors or collaborators on a particular research topic (submitting one joint proposal/abstract). The conference also includes a poster session for preliminary studies, works in progress, or early stage research projects. Abstracts for the poster session are also welcome. The abstracts should not exceed 500 words.

Please submit your abstracts by email to by March 31, 2020.

All abstracts will be peer reviewed and applicants will receive a notification of acceptance no later than May 15, 2020.

Best Doctoral Paper Award 2020

Current PhD students or recently graduated PhDs (within the last two years) are invited to submit papers based on their doctoral work. Among the submitted papers, one will be selected for the Best Doctoral Paper Award and given the monetary award.

The deadline for submitting papers for the Best Doctoral Paper Award is June 30, 2020. To be considered, papers should not be co-authored with a faculty member. Papers should be accompanied by a statement in which the wish to participate in the competition is expressed. The winner[s] will be announced during the conference.

Further details and additional academic and social events will soon be announced on the conference website.

Stay updated by following CHER 2020 on Twitter & Facebook!

Click here to download the full Call for Proposals.

Pre-CHER ECHER event

As almost every year since 2011, ECHER will organize a one-day event for early-career higher education researchers on the day before the official start of the conference (September 1). Follow us on Twitter or join ECHER to stay updated!

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