Last Friday evening, Dr Ceryn Evans presented her research on higher education and civil society at Public Uni’s 15th event at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. Public Uni is an event organised by Cardiff University and aims to provide researchers with an opportunity to communicate their research in engaging, bite-sized ‘chunks’ to a ‘lay audience’. Each presenter has just 10 minutes to talk about their research, using only props or pictures to help them.
Dr Evans said: “On the evening of Friday 31st March I found myself stood in a packed-out room in Chapter Arts Centre, in front of an audience of roughly 60 people, sharing some of the findings from the civil society research project I have been involved in for the past two years. This project explores the relationship between higher education and civil society by comparing graduates and non-graduates in terms of their participation in civil society (meaning their participation in voluntary organisations, politics, trade unions, community organisations, sports or religious groups, to name a few).
“The project has also examined whether graduates who went to university when our higher education system was an ‘elite’ system (ie, when very small numbers of people went to university) are more or less likely to participate in civil society compared to graduates who have participated in a ‘massified’ higher education system. Our rational for this study reflected our concern that higher education policy has been preoccupied with the economic contribution that higher education makes to society, with very little consideration of its contribution to civil society. We wanted to bring this focus to the forefront in our research. Public Uni, I anticipated, would be a good place to communicate the impetus behind our research and share some of its emerging findings.
“Audience members raised searching questions about the extent to which all ‘civil society’ participation can be taken as an intrinsically ‘good thing’, and whether some civil society organisations or associations might themselves be exclusive or elitist, which might help explain why graduates are more likely to participate in them.
To read Dr Evans’ full account of her Public Uni experience, including what she feels can be gained from public engagement events such as this, visit our blogs page.