Areas and dimensions of universities response to COVID-19: Diversity, trends, and evidence from the University Social Responsibility Network

Keywords: University Social Responsibility, university response, civic engagement, COVID-19, disaster and mitigation, higher education, universities


The University Social Responsibility Network (USRN) promotes civic engagement in higher education and awareness of the nature of University Social Responsibility (USR), how it functions, and what it means depending on its context. In 2019 the USRN started a collaborative Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called Introduction to University Social Responsibility. The outbreak of COVID-19 affected the production of the course, however this also led to the addition of a Special Session on Universities’ Response to the MOOC showing how members addressed the challenges of the pandemic. Based on the experiences from 13 universities and the USRN, this article portrays flagship responses of how universities in the network tackled some of the challenges presented by the pandemic in range of academic and non-academic initiatives categorized as University Social Responsibility (USR) Areas of Engagement, namely research, education, advisory role, outreach, information management, provision of support, institutional reforms, and extended services. The article discusses broader questions referring to how COVID-19 impacted the understanding of what USR is; therefore, looking into both policy and theoretical implications of how the concept of USR and universities responses can be understood and applied in different contexts and universities.

Received: 31 January 2022
Accepted: 30 August 2023


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Author Biographies

Fernando Palacio, Kyoto University, Japan

He served as a Program-Specific Senior Lecturer at the International Strategy Office of Kyoto University until 2021, where he contributed to the design and development of university-wide policy on internationalization and inclusion. Among his responsibilities, he also engaged with the promotion of University Social Responsibility and the development of strategic partnerships. Dr Palacio’s prior experience in the field of harmonization and international cooperation in higher education took place as a researcher on credit transfer systems in the region of Southeast Asia. He worked for the Ministry of Education Regional Center for Higher Education Development (SEAMEO RIHED), and later as evaluator for the ASEAN International Mobility for Students (AIMS) Program. In parallel, he continued his research on University Social Responsibility at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. He obtained his PhD and MA degrees from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies at the Department of Area and Culture Studies, in the Peace and Conflict Studies program, focusing on human rights protection and international cooperation. He has also been committed to international experiences in UNICEFEAPRO and other NGOs in Southeast Asia, working specifically on issues pertaining to child soldiers and child migrants.

Paola Sanoni, Kyoto University, Japan

Ph.D., M.A., B.B.A. has worked for over 20 years on internationalization strategy in Higher Education (HE). She served as a Senior Lecturer at the International Strategy Office of Kyoto University focusing on policy design and support for internationalization, promotion of University Social Responsibility, and addressing the outreach for the Oceania region. She has been working as a member of several international HE committees at top Universities in Peru, Australia, and Japan. Her previous experience as a coordinator of the Trans-Pacific Human Capital Development Program at the University of Tsukuba, supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT) focused on empowering young professionals to develop a versatile capacity to work in academia and global industry. Her main field of research links academia, the Telecom industry, and government on the implementation of ICTs for public health and education in rural areas financed by international cooperation. Dr. Sanoni obtained her master’s degree and Ph.D. in International Public Policy from the University of Tsukuba, Graduate Diploma in Global Health from the University of Tokyo and holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.

Nikan Sadehvandi, Kyoto University, Japan

Ph.D. degree from the Graduate School of Education at Kyoto University. She served as a research associate at the Center for the Promotion of Excellence in Higher Education at Kyoto University (CPEHE) since 2017 and was involved in the educational design and development of a few MOOCs on KyotoUx. Her research has explored MOOC pedagogy and more specifically improving peer assessment process and outcome in MOOC. Currently she is serving as a lecturer at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.


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How to Cite
Palacio, Fernando, Paola Sanoni, and Nikan Sadehvandi. 2023. “Areas and Dimensions of Universities Response to COVID-19: Diversity, Trends, and Evidence from the University Social Responsibility Network”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 11 (1), 327-68.