Business Administration

(DBA-PhD, SMC University, Switzerland) [2017]

Title of the thesis

Social Responsibility in private universities. A reference model to for-profit European Higher Education Institutions as part of a corporate vision


The research on social responsibility in universities aims at providing a considerable input to improve the situation, starting from the experience of the partners, who are some of the most advanced EU institutions in this field, and deploying their expertise towards the creation of a European model of Social Responsibility of universities. The research study focuses on designing and developing a model to encourage the adoption of social responsibility in European higher institutions. The research is organised into several chapters: overview, literature review, research methodology, case studies, definition of a European model for social responsibility for universities, validation of the model, sustainability plan for the model and conclusions and future research. The five SR perspectives addressed into details in the research include social, economic, stakeholder, environmental and voluntary factors. The research utilizes the hybrid methodology, combining experimental and practical approaches. The first step shows 1) a detailed state of the art on the topic, 2) followed by an experimental methodology that generated several case studies, 3) then, described a preliminary model that helped in testing the research hypothesis; 4) the model was validated by various experts in the field, who helped shaping a more advanced version and coming up with 5) recommendation after analysing the results. The developed model focuses on aspects such as trust, transparency, accountability and disclosure, governance and corporate vision, ethics and justice, environmental responsibility, democratic citizenship and social responsibility in learning, teaching and conducting research. The process used a number of research methods like, i.e. desk and literature review, case studies, definition of standards of benchmarking, semi-structured interviews and focus group with experts.
In this research, we have analysed case studies of universities on Social Responsibility. We have extracted examples of good practices already implemented in the higher education system. We also have interviewed a number of experts to elicit the features of a Social Responsibility model. They have provided valuable hints to help us define a basic framework. To this end, we have used the concept of Standards of Benchmarking applied to the topic, which allows anyone to use a normalized set of sections and subtopics to contrast with. A standardized approach encourages accepted metrics amongst the stakeholders and a common ground for discussion. Our model sets a number of sections focused on 1. Trust, Transparency, Accountability, Disclosure, 2. Governance and Corporate Vision, 3. Ethics, Rights, Respect and Justice, 4. Labour & Fair Operating Practices, 5. Environmental Responsibility, 6. Democratic Citizenship, Development and Community Involvement, and 7. Social Responsibility in Teaching, Support for Learning and Research. All these sections provide an overall layer to design and implement Social Responsibility across the institution.
In this context, private for-profit universities work as any other for-profit company, no matter their fiscal form, but with the academic context and educational views as part of the corporate vision. Both interlaced, both supporting each other. Social Responsibility emerges with a decisive role: on the one side, it becomes a key for social commitment; universities support the society and provides the right for education. Private universities also share this vision that they have to integrate with their for-profit view, in order to find a healthy balance. On the other side, Social Responsibility means an added value to a corporate vision since it provides a full engagement with individuals and communities. To some extent, Social Responsibility is part of the university branding, which brings good values to products and institutions.


SMC University, Switzerland

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