University-Community Engagement Assessment Instrument

Welcome to CHET’s HERANA University-Community Engagement Assessment Instrument.

What does the instrument do?

The instrument operationalises the concept of university engagement (also referred to as ‘service leanring’, ‘outreach’ and ‘responsiveness’, among others). It does so by reconceptualising engagement as interconnectedness.

Interconnectedness describes the relationship (in tension) of academics engaging with those outside of the university while simultaneously linking back to the university’s core functions. Interconnectedness is operationalised along two dimensions: (1) Articulation which describes the extent to which engagement activities link to the university’s strategic objectives and to external constituents and (2) the academic core which describes the extent to which engagement activities link to the university’s core functions of research and teaching and learning.

The instrument captures data by means of an online questionnaire. From the questionnaire data, an interconnectedness score is calculated for each university-community engagement activity. The score denotes whether such activities can be described as interconnected – the activity effectively manages the tension between connecting to those outside of the university and with the core functions of the university – or whether such activities are disconnected – the activity is weakly connected to external communities or weakly connected to knowledge production and transfer.

The intereconnectedness scores are presented graphically as means for identifying patterns across a university, faculty or department (see adjacent images containing actual data for Makerere University and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University).

What is the purpose of the instrument?

The data and analysis provided by the HERANA University-Community Engagement Assessment Instrument provides the evidence required for the drafting of institutional policy that promotes and supports engagement activities that are for the benefit of society, in alignment with the institution’s strategic objectives and, at the same time, will strengthen the universities’ central role in teaching and research.


HERANA Phase 1 research on development-related projects at eight African universities went some way in countering the paucity of research on university engagement by beginning to paint a picture of how ‘development- related projects’ are articulated with constituencies both external and internal to the university, and how these projects either strengthened or weakened the core activities of teaching and research.

In HERANA 2 the objective was to further elaborate and refine the Phase 1 methodology. This comprised an investigation of a larger sample of projects at two African universities in order to test some of the hypotheses inherent in the methodology, and culminated in the development of an instrument that could be deployed by universities to assess their engagement activities in relation to the academic core.

In HERANA 3, currently underway, the focus is on institutionalising the collection of data on university-community engagement activities through the use of the HERANA engagement instrument so as to provide universities with a clearer picture of the extent to which engagement activities are strengthening research and teaching and learning.

Participating universities

  • Makerere University
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
  • University of Fort Hare
  • University of Ghana
  • University of Mauritius

Interested in participating?

Any university may use the instrument. All that is required is for your university to be set up on the system. If you would like your university to be set up, please contact CHET.

Report on the findings of the HERANA Phase 2 research on university–community engagement at two African universities. Also includes a detailed description of the methodology used to develop the instrument.