University is, for the majority of society, a synonym of advanced education and research. But beyond these two missions the universities around us believe more and more in, and are more accepting of, a «third mission», aimed at transferring and valuing the knowledge they create. It is in this third mission where social responsibility comes in, regarded as the direct contribution from centres of advanced education and research, to the well-being and development of the university community itself and, in general, to the society it serves. It is in this area on which we believe that public universities should base a good deal of their actions.
Lecturer François Vallaeys, points out that University Social Responsibility (USR) must be conceived as an ethical quality that the university community has as its policy, and should be carried out through the responsible management of educational, cognitive, labour and environmental impacts generated by the university, in a two-way dialogue with society, with the objective of improving the academy and promoting sustainable human development.
USR is one of the priorities of the current governing board at UPF. Two years ago a program with this name was created which brings together different units and services to form a multi-lateral way of working. With this very criteria the social responsibility Vice-rectorate was created. This commitment is here to stay, and we want it to form part of the values and daily activities at the institution.
It is in this area that work is being carried out, in order to introduce lines of research, skills and competence in professional social responsibility, in gender perspective and in sustainability, into teaching activities. Because although it is true that we are training future professionals and directors of organizations and companies, political and social leaders, it is also true that we are training active citizens with critical awareness, who will work towards a model of sustainable development in the broad sense.
Furthermore, UPF as an organization, is incorporating social responsibility into its management model as well, in order to ensure a fully comprehensive commitment. Examples of this are, the new model of governance, which is more adaptable and efficient and based on decentralization and co-responsibility, and the setting up of a aid program to assist students with difficult economic situations ahead of them, along with allowances, grants , and internships at the university itself; and the series of improvements agreed upon with the social area to move forward in the well-being of staff (pilot project for teleworking, measures taken for balancing work and family life, training plans, etc.).
The true challenge lies therefore, in taking steps, not only in the academic and teaching areas, but also in the general functioning of the organization, which allows us to assess whether we have reached simply a conceptual framework of well-intentioned declarations or if we have reached a true commitment embracing equity and sustainable development, meaning that we are involved in improving the society that we form a part of and serve, as a public university.
Mónica Figueras, Director of the Postgraduate Course in Fashion Media and Journalism 3.0 at UPF-IDEC and Vice-Rector of Social Responsibility and Promotion of UPF
Jaume Badia, General Manager of Pompeu Fabra University at UPF
Pau Juste, Deputy General Manager of Human Resources and Organization at UPF