Keeping the Doors Open: A Forum on Access

On November 17 and 18, the Community Engagement Office at Central European University (CEU) will convene colleagues from university access programs for the conference “Keeping the Doors Open: Access Programs and the Third Mission of Universities.” Here, program managers, educators and participants representing a wide range of access initiatives will participate in discussions on the “third mission” of universities —service to society— and rethink the university as an open society where education and knowledge take place in contact with surrounding communities. Speakers include representatives from CEU, Bard College (New York), Sciences Po, London School of Economics, University of Bath, West University of Timisoara and Bard College Berlin. The conference program can be found here.

“Can we read the university as an open society itself? A place where the production of knowledge and transmission of knowledge can happen in dialogue with the communities around us and also those who have been historically excluded or marginalized?” asks conference organizer and CEU Socrates Project Coordinator Eduard Lezcano.

The conference will begin with a reflection on the “third mission” after which panelists will examine the current state of university access programs across Western Europe and the US. Within the framework of the conference, the Open Society Research Platform (OSRP) will conduct the workshop “Knowledge Practices and the University as Open Society” furthering their analysis of how the idea of open society can be translated into civic, intellectual, and knowledge-exchange practices to foster critical thinking and positive change. The OSRP launched in January 2021 to explore how the concept of open society has been used in academic, policy, and public discourses, and to identify the major strands of relevant debates around this contested concept.

In structuring the two days of discourse, Lezcano highlights, “We wanted to revisit fundamental questions: Who has access to education in a place aspiring towards an open society? We can think about the university's third mission in general, but also more specifically, what is its relationship to the core functions of a university? How might access programs be an intrinsic or integrated function and not a pillar separate from research and teaching?”

CEU students who want to become more involved in university-led access programs should consider attending “Access Programs Around the World” which will survey a variety of programs from the Bard Prison Initiative and Sciences Po’s Equal Opportunity Programme to CEU’s OLIve Program, Roma Access Program and the Socrates Project. The Socrates Experience panel will also reveal unique perspectives as both teachers and student participants from the program in multiple locations reflect and report back from their time in the initiative. Additionally, the panel “Alumni and Engagement” will offer opportunities for brainstorming collectively on the topic of student participation.

“The conference will really be a forum to discuss what access means,” comments Lezcano, adding, “The crucial issue is how you define access in relation to potential and excellence - in terms of promise or in terms of performance.” He hopes that the deliberation during the conference regarding access acknowledges that the potential to learn is part and parcel of the definition of excellence.