Higher Education for the 21st Century:
Innovations in University-Society Partnerships


As society becomes ever more knowledge-intensive, it needs more socially oriented educational institutions, to co-create knowledge and democratise education itself. In an effort to democratize knowledge, universities are establishing and strengthening University-Society partnerships. Functioning as ‘sites of citizenship’, such partnerships contribute to community, societal and economic infrastructure; support equity and diversity within higher education; and make education meaningful for local communities. Such a re-envisioned role for academic institutions has become even more necessary in the context of globalising societies where rapid developments in technology and communications have brought new ideas, values and knowledge, and redefined the roles of students and teachers. Students are no longer learning in traditional ways: they are less text based and more motivated by images, less restricted to their local or even national contexts and more attuned to global resources through the internet. They are less bound by formal subjects and more willing to experiment across disciplines like aesthetics and policy, literature and social science, popular and classical culture and are willing to engage with society for learning as well as making societal transformations. In order to accept and engage with these changing realities, educational institutions need to reinvent and reposition itself. This requires a close and reciprocal relation of educational institutions with other institutions of the society. For these reasons, we have formed a Critical Edge Alliance as a deliberative platform for promoting critical and innovative approaches to Higher Education across the globe. The proposed conference to elaborate varied ideas of University – Society Partnership is the 3rd Conference being organised under the aegis of the Alliance at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India.


The Proposed Conference
The proposed conference is aimed at focusing on one of the central aspects of critical higher education, ie., University - Society Partnerships.

Through the provision of education as well as research, universities and colleges have contributed substantially to the advancement of public well-being. There is little question that higher education must address an array of critical challenges confronting society—including the sustainability of natural resources and responding to the welfare and development needs of the society. Besides, it could help more working adults acquire higher-level skills and knowledge, instilling core human values; and strengthening social structures to ensure that future generations experience lives of justice, equity, and fulfilment. There is a greater need to democratise higher education to respond to the complex challenges of the contemporary times and to make the learner becoming an effective citizen by learning to reason, dialogue, and engage in critical thinking and thereby contributing to the building of a stronger democracy.

While academic systems function within a national environment, the challenges play themselves out on a global scale. We can learn much from both national experiences and international trends. A comparative and global approach to thinking about higher education benefits everyone.


The conference raises a critical question;
In an era of diminished public purpose of the state, can a powerful University – Society Partnership define a renewed public agenda for Higher Education?

Objectives of the Conference
1. To bring together universities with strong foundations of University – Society Partnerships
2. To pool together innovations in University – Society partnerships in addressing societal and developmental challenges in a Globalised society
3. To co-create knowledge on University – Society Partnerships in democratising Higher Education.
4. To generate knowledge on critical and innovative pedagogies in Higher Education through discussion of international initiatives and linking of people and institutions committed to such processes in Globalised society.
5. To bring together key academic administrators and academics among the higher education research community and students for a creative dialogue on the central issues facing contemporary higher education.


Sub-themes of the conference
The conference theme is divided into three sub-themes as;
1. Democratizing Higher Education: Making Learning Available and Accessible to All
2. Co-Creativities: University - Society Partnerships
3. Co-Learnings: Innovative and Critical Pedagogies


Student workshop aimed at capturing experiences and imaginations of students in articulating and theorising University - Society partnerships will be held as pre-conference sessions. The outcome of the pre-conference student workshop will be presented as one of the concluding plenary sessions at the conference.

Key Dates

Opening of Abstract Submission                          10 April 2017
Conference Registration Opens                           17 July 2017

Abstract Submission Deadline                             31 July 2017
Early Bird Registration Deadline                          17 August 2017
Regular Registration Deadline                             08 September 2017
CEA Students’ Workshop                                    19-20 September 2017
CEA International Conference                             21-13 September 2017


Limited Spot Registration for accepted abstracts will be available on prior request depending on availability of seats. Abstracts will be reviewed from July 14 and onwards, and you will be informed of your selection within one week of submitting the abstract. 

Abstract Submission
Paper and poster proposals can be submitted in English only. A poster proposal is an alternative to presenting a full research / conceptual paper. New researchers/PhD students in particular are invited to share work-inprogress by means of a poster. Posters will be displayed throughout the conference and a designated session will be scheduled in which participants will be offered the opportunity to meet with authors to discuss their work.
Abstracts (for both paper as well as poster presentations) should not exceed 800 words (excluding references and title) and they should include:
1. A title.
2. The conference’s thematic line addressed.
3. Three – Four Keywords
4. A statement of the empirical or theoretical question locating it within the scientific literature
5. A concise account of the empirical or theoretical methodological approach.
6. The main argument of the paper.
7. A statement of the main conclusions and their relevance to an international audience.
8. Main references.


For formatting, it is advised to use the Font Times New Roman 12pt with space 1.5.

Authors should submit their abstracts in the prescribed format (downloadable from the conference announcement page in the website) via email at

All abstracts will be reviewed by the conveners of the associated thematic line. They will undergo a blind evaluation process and the conveners will make the final decision as to whether a paper is accepted and in which type of session it is to be presented.


Conference and Workshop Registration is available for participants whose abstract has been selected either for paper presentation or poster presentation. Registration Charges vary depending on whether the participants are affiliated to the Critical Edge Alliance or not and also on the whether a student / research scholar or faculty members. In addition, the organisers offer an early-bird registration fee for those participants, who register by 10 August, 2017. The registration fee covers all conference materials, food and refreshments during the conference / workshop, one evening reception and one conference dinner. The organising committee is also exploring the possibility of organising limited number of part sponsorships to cover the registration fee for researchers and students who are not employed and from non OECD countries / developing countries, and those who do not have access to any other financial support. The list of OECD countries can be accessed here. 















Limited subsidized on campus accommodation will be available for participants who opt for early bird registration on first come first served basis. Students and researchers may opt for shared student accommodation at nominal rates. The conference secretariat will be happy to assist others in securing hotel accommodation in nearby areas upon request.


Important Contacts

Email: (for general enquiry including accommodation) (only for abstract submission)


Conference Committees

The Conference has three Co-Chairs: Dr. P.K. Shajahan (TISS, India), Dr. Kasper Eskildsen (RUC, Denmark and Dr. L.H.M. Ling (The New School, USA).