Edith Cowan University, Western Australia in association with Khon Kaen University, Thailand and Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University, Thailand.
Universally, there is concern that much academic learning has dealt mainly in theory, removing knowledge from context with a resultant lack of practical experience. Here, the catalyst for strengthening university-community engagement, emanated from a desire to foster greater propensity within students to make connections between their academic courses and responsibility toward the community and people in need, and thus develop enhanced skills in social interaction, teamwork and effectiveness. This paper explores a variety of models of university-community engagement that aim to achieve and model good practice in policy making and planning around healthcare education and service development. Ways of integrating teaching and learning with community engagement, so there is reciprocal learning with significant benefits to the community, students, the university and industry are described. The communities of engagement for a transdisciplinary approach in healthcare are defined and the types of collaborative partnerships are outlined, including public/private partnerships, service learning approaches and regional campus engagement. The processes for initiating innovation in this field, forging sustainable partnerships, providing cooperative leadership and building shared vision are detailed. Measuring shared and sustained benefits for all participants is examined in the context of effecting changes in working relationships as well as the impact on students in terms of increased personal and social responsibility, confidence and competence. For the health professions, it is considered vital to adopt this approach in order to deliver graduates who feel aware of community needs, believe they can make a difference, and have a greater sense of community responsibility, ethic of service and more sophisticated understandings of social contexts. In the longer term, it is proposed the strategy will deliver a future healthcare workforce that is more likely to have a strengthened sense of community, social and personal responsibility and thus effect positive social change.