Project overview

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General presentation of EU-USR
EU-USR was conceived as a response to the policy priority of the European Commission about the need for a common social responsibility strategy for all European universities. In this context, the EU-USR project creates a European model to enhance social responsibility of universities in a long-term perspective. To this end, the project uses a bottom-up approach by collecting examples of good practice from across Europe and using these to help inform the development, piloting and validation of a set of draft benchmark standards. These standards will then become the focus for the articulation of means developing of a common European Framework for Universities Social Responsibility.

Project rationale and relevance
Preliminary research by the consortium highlighted an imbalance in terms of definitions, policies, strategies and actions in the sphere of social responsibility among universities across Europe. In this context, the EU-USR project is focused on assisting (promoting?) the development of a common reference framework for University Social Responsibility.

Project rationale and relevance
Preliminary research by the consortium highlighted an imbalance in terms of definitions, policies, strategies and actions in the sphere of social responsibility among universities across Europe. In this context, the EU-USR project is focused on assisting (promoting?) the development of a common reference framework for University Social Responsibility.

Download General Presentation of EU-USR

USR definition

Working Definition of University Social Responsibility (USR)
We define USR as “the responsibilities of a (European) university for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment through transparent and ethical strategies that:

  1. promote and encourage among students (and staff?) behaviors consistent with the values of justice, equality, participative democracy, social responsibility and sustainability
  2. contribute to sustainable development including the health and welfare of society
  3. take into account the expectations of stakeholders
  4. are in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behavior
  5. accord with the relevant norms of transparency and public accountability”.

The standards for USR being developed and used in this Project are derived, in part, from ISO 26000 (The International Standard on Social Responsibility), from the  UNESCO 1998 “World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty First Century”, the reiteration in the UNESCO 2009 “Communiquè from the World Conference on Higher Education: The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development” and the Council of Europe’s 2006 “Declaration on the Responsibility of Higher Education for a Democratic Culture – Citizenship, Human Rights and Sustainability”, the European Commission’s 2011 “Renewed EU Strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility” and other relevant sources.

Operationally, the standards derive principally from four clusters of inter-linked elements, derived from these key sources:

1. From ISO 26000
1.1 Organizational Governance
1.2 Human Rights
1.3 Labour Practices
1.4 The Environment
1.5 Fair Operating practices
1.6 Consumer Issues
1.7 Community Involvement and Development

2. From UNESCO
2.1 Education, Train and Research
2.2 Ethical Role, Autonomy and Anticipatory Function

3. From the Council of Europe
3.1Democratic Citizenship and Democratic Development
3.2 Human Rights, Mutual Respect and Social Justice
3.3 Environmental and Societal Responsibility
3.4 Dialogue and the Peaceful Resolution of Conflict

4. From the European Commission
4.1 Trust
4.2 Self- and Co-Regulation
4.3 Disclosure of Social and Environmental Information
4.4 Integrating Social Responsibility into Education, Training and Research.