In the context of a severe recession, pressure on the public finances and major societal challenges such as global warming and the ageing population Governments are quite properly asking: what are universities for?

In this provocation it is argued that all publicly-funded universities in the UK have a civic duty to engage with wider society on the local, national and global scales, and to do so in a manner which links the social to the economic spheres. Engagement has to be an institution wide-commitment, not confined to individual academics or projects. It has to embrace teaching as well as research, students as well as academics, and the full range of support services. All universities need to develop strategies to guide their engagement with wider society, to manage themselves accordingly and to work with external partners to gauge their success.

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