Call zum Themenheft 13/2

"Civic Engagement in Higher Education Institutions in Europe"

Gastherausgeber: Karl-Heinz Gerholz (Universität Bamberg), Holger Backhaus-Maul (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg) & Paul Rameder (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien)
Erscheinungstermin: Juni 2018


In recent times, a lively discussion on the concept of Civic Engagement in Higher Education Institutions (HEI) can be observed. There is a broad range of understanding what Civic Engagement means for HEI and how it is linked to or part of the Third Mission. Several terms are used to describe the phenomenon, such as civic mission on the institutional level or service learning, community service or community based research on the teaching and research level. Jacoby speaks of a “complex and polyonymous concept” (JACOBY, 2009).

However, a common framework of Civic Engagement and Third Mission includes on the one hand the fostering of HEI’s role in their community and civil society respectively. On the other hand, the aim is to educate students to become active and responsible citizens (GERHOLZ & HEINEMANN, 2015). The first one focuses on the HEI’s engagement, their activities and cross sectoral collaborations and interactions with civil society organisations, public institutions and for-profit organisations (e.g. MACKERLE-BIXA, RAMEDER & PATZL, 2015). The aim is to strengthen them in a community context and to transfer knowledge and insights between different scientific fields on the one side and society and community on the other side.

HEI should make a specific contribution to community development. This is accompanied with the question of HEI’s mandate in society. The second point means preparing students to be civically engaged citizens in society and fostering a democratic understanding. The most discussed concepts to reach this aim are service learning and community service. The idea is that students participate in concrete activities that fulfill societal and community needs. A structured reflection of this activity fosters a deeper understanding of academic content and the students’ understanding of and values towards civil society.

In the last two decades, the concept of Civic Engagement in HEI has attracted great attention and initiated discussions in Europe. The outlined observations of the Civic Engagement discourse represent the starting point of this special issue about a theory- and empirical-based understanding of Civic Engagement in HEI in Europe. The following four perspectives will be considered.

Perspective 1: Traditions of Civic Engagement and the Third Mission of Higher Education Institutions.

The discourse about Civic Engagement can be seen as a source of orientation for shaping HEI’s mandate in a given society. The origin of this discourse is primarily set in the US-area (e.g. BACKHAUS-MAUL & ROTH, 2013), where HEI traditionally have a stronger community and society orientation. In Europe, independence and liberty are important guiding principles for HEI. Due to the historical development of different welfare regimes, the types of civil society and thus the characteristics and the traditions of civic engagement vary within Europe (SALAMON & ANHEIER, 1998). Keeping this in mind, the question arises, how the concept of Civic Engagement has to be re-interpreted by HEI in Europe, by adding the Third Mission as a new dimension of HEI besides teaching and research. Within this perspective, the detailed questions are:

  • By what means, can Civic Engagement extend the concept of the Third Mission for HEI in Europe?
  • Therefore, how can or should the concept of Civic Engagement be re-constructed for HEI in Europe?
  • What is the meaning of Civic Engagement in light of different disciplinary approaches (e.g. Sociology, Political Science, Psychology, Pedagogic)? What kind of descriptions of civil society and HEI exist regarding the boundaries and similarities of both phenomena?

Perspective 2: Institutionalization of Civic Engagement in the landscape of HEI.

On the institutional level, the discussion of Civic Engagement affects HEI in their organisational structure and activities. It can be observed that in mission statements of HEI Civic Engagement and Third Mission are exclusively pronounced. Entities with the assignment to foster the Civic Engagement activities inside and outside HEI are generated. Job profiles for representatives of service learning and Third Mission are created. Overall, political or stakeholder initiatives are established to foster Civic Engagement in the landscape of HEI (e.g. funding programmes, associations). Furthermore, Civic Engagement plays an important role at HEI regarding the strategically orientation as well as during the accreditation processes. For instance, in the field of business education, sustainability and social responsibility standards, requested by international accreditation organisations like EFMD (EQUIS) or AACSB, can serve as drivers for the implementation of community service and service learning programs. Overall, an institutionalization based on the Civic Engagement approach can be observed. Within this perspective, exemplary questions are: What kind of organisational structure can foster Civic Engagement inside and outside HEI?

  • How have business schools implemented sustainability and social responsibility standards through service learning or community service programs? What are the major experiences and learnings?
  • How are Civic Engagement activities organized between civil society/community and HEI?
  • What are the challenges in establishing effective partnerships between civil society/community and HEI?

Perspective 3: Conceptualization, integration and effects of Civic Engagement in study programs and curricula.

One aspect in the Civic Engagement discourse is to prepare students for their role in civil society. There are different ways to integrate Civic Engagement into the existing study programs and curricula. The most established concepts are service learning and community service. Community service programs encourage students to engage in civil society activities with an overriding purpose of improving the well-being of communities and address their social needs (MACKERLE-BIXA, RAMEDER & PATZL, 2015). In service learning courses students participate in service projects, which fit to community needs and have links to curricular contents. In the US area a long research tradition of the effectiveness and the design of service learning or community service can be observed. Nevertheless, the results of these studies are not directly transferable to different and heterogeneous European contexts (e.g. learning and teaching traditions, different student groups and different welfare understandings and meanings of Civic Engagement). Furthermore, the existing studies mostly investigate in a general comparison between service learning courses and traditional courses. From an instructional point of view, it is also important to examine the effects of the design of service learning arrangements on students’ developments (GERHOLZ et al., 2015, 2017). In this perspective exemplary questions are:

  • Through which concepts, approaches and activities do study programs facilitate and promote Civic Engagement (community service, subject-specific or interdisciplinary service learning...)?
  • How and through which concepts do HEI and especially program managers integrate Civic Engagement into the curricula?
  • How can Civic Engagement (service learning, community service) be integrated into the syllabi on different program levels (Bachelor, Master, PhD)?
  • Do we have disciplinary differences in designing service learning arrangements?
  • What are meaningful and effective instructional design patterns of service learning or community engagement arrangements?
  • How can we describe and measure the effects of service learning arrangements?

Perspective 4: Meaning and effects of Civic Engagement for civil society.

Is Civic Engagement in HEI meaningful and effective for civil society and Non-Profit-Organizations in general and communities and citizens specifically? This question highlights a key blind spot in the debate concerning Civic Engagement in HEI. To date Civic Engagement in HEI is mostly discussed from an academic centered viewpoint (learning success, education policy). However, an opposite viewpoint was chosen in this perspective by instead focussing on the meaning and effects of Civic Engagment in HEI for civil society. What meaning and effects does Civic Engagement in HEI have for:

  • Civil society and non-profit organisations?
  • Communities and citizens?
  • Students in their role in civil society?

Authors are invited to submit contributions to the identified priorities. The submissions should be empirical such as design research or intervention approaches, or on a theoretical basis like discourse analysis. The call for papers is to be understood as cross-disciplinary. This is also represented in the editor team. We encourage authors from all disciplines to submit conceptual and empirical submissions.


Backhaus-Maul, H., & Roth, C. (2013). Service Learning an Hochschulen in Deutschland. Ein erster empirischer Beitrag zur Vermessung eines jungen Phänomens. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Gerholz, K.-H., Liszt, V., & Klingsieck, K. B. (2015). Didaktische Gestaltung von Service Learning – Ergebnisse einer Mixed Methods-Studie aus der Domäne der Wirtschaftswissenschaften. bwp@ Berufs- und Wirtschaftspädagogik – online, 28, 1-23.

Gerholz, K.-H., Liszt, V. & Klingsieck, K. (2017). Effects of learning design patterns in service learning courses. Active Learning in Higher Education. (in press)

Gerholz, K.-H. & Heinemann, S. (2015). CSR – a new challenge for universities? A theoretical and empirical analysis of German universities. In L. O’Riordan, S. Heinemann, & P. Zmuda (Eds.), New Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility: Locating the Missing Link (pp. 503-522).

Jacoby, B. (2009). Civic engagement in today’s higher education – An overview. In T. Ehrlich, & B. Jacoby, B. (Eds.), Civic engagement in higher education: Concepts and practices (pp. 5-30). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mackerle-Bixa, S., Rameder, P. & Patzl, A.-M. (2015). „Lernen macht Schule“. Soziale Verantwortung als Hochschulprogramm. In S. Binder, & E. Kössner, Erfahrungen teilen – Vielfalt erleben. Interkulturelles Mentoring und Mehrsprachigkeit an österreichischen Schulen (pp. 45-59). Wien: LIT Verlag.

Salamon, L. M., & Anheier, H. K. (1998). Social origins of civil society: Explaining the nonprofit sector cross-nationally. Voluntas, 9(3), 213-248.

Guidelines regarding the journal

The ZFHE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes scientific contributions of practical relevance concerning current higher education development issues. The focus is on didactical, structural, and cultural developments in teaching and learning. Topics that are innovative and still regarded as open in respect of their design options are preferred.

The ZFHE is published by a consortium of European researchers and funded by the Austrian Ministry for Science, Research and Economics. For more information, see

Submission information

English contributions may be submitted in two possible formats:

Scientific contributions within the main theme should comply with the following criteria:
The contribution...

  • presents innovative perspectives, arguments, problem analyses etc. on the key topic;
  • focuses on essential aspects of the key topic;
  • is theoretically supported (i.e. it offers a clear connection to the scientific discourse of the topic under discussion);
  • provides scientific insights with added value at least in some parts;
  • clearly elucidates the methodology used to acquire knowledge;
  • follows the relevant citation rules consistently (APA style, 6th edition);
  • comprises up to 33,600 characters (incl. spaces, as well as cover page, bibliography and author information)

Workshop reports comprise the instructional presentation of practical experience, good practice examples, design concepts, pilot projects, etc. Workshop reports should comply with the following criteria:

  • demonstrates potential for knowledge transfer;
  • describes illustrative aspects and factors for the purpose of theory formation;
  • systematically and transparently presented (e.g., no incomprehensible clues to details in an area of practice);
  • follows the relevant citation rules consistently (APA style, 6th edition);
  • up to 21,600 characters (incl. spaces, as well as cover page, bibliography and author information).

Submission and review schedule

January 10, 2018 – Submission deadline for complete articles:
Please upload your contribution(s) to the ZFHE journal system ( in the corresponding section (scientific contribution, workshop report) of ZFHE 13/2 issue in anonymous format. To do so, you must first register as an author in the system.

March 26, 2018Feedback / Reviews: Scientific contributions and workshop reports are evaluated in a double-blind process (see below).

April 20, 2018 – Revision deadline: Where necessary, contributions may be revised according to feedback and recommendations from the reviews.

June 15, 2018 – Online publication: In June 2018, the finalized contributions are published under and also made available in print.

Review Process

All submitted contributions will be examined in a double-blind peer review process to guarantee scientific quality. The editors of the current issue propose the reviewers for the respective theme and allocate individual contributions to the reviewers; they also determine which contributions will be accepted. The selection of reviewers and the review process for each thematic issue are always supervised by a member of the editorial board.

Formatting and submission

In order to save valuable time with the formatting of the contributions, we kindly ask that all authors work with the template from the beginning. The template can be downloaded from the ZFHE website under the following link:

Since we must be able to edit the texts, they must be submitted unlocked/unprotected in in Microsoft Word (.doc), Office Open XML (.docx), Open Document Text (.odt) or Plain Text (.txt) format. Please do not submit any PDF files! Submissions in the “Scientific Contribution” and “Workshop Report” categories must first be made in anonymous format in order to guarantee the double-blind review process. Please remove all references to the author(s) of the document (including in the document properties!). Upon a positive review result, this information will be re-inserted.


If you have any questions regarding the content of the issue, please contact Karl-Heinz Gerholz (
For technical and organizational questions, please contact Michael Raunig (

We look forward to your submissions!

Karl-Heinz Gerholz, Holger Backhaus-Maul & Paul Rameder