Online public engagement is the New Deal! Along the distinctive pathway of the Italian University
Frame of the research: A managerial perspective of public engagement can help universities to strengthen the communication of university identity from a social, scientific, or accessibility point of view.
Purpose of the paper: The goal of this paper is to investigate the concept of the online university public engagement from a managerial standpoint by examining those Italian universities that have engaged in Third Mission activities thanks also to recent ministerial decrees issued on the subject.
Methodology: A content analysis of the main official websites of 50 Italian universities was performed. An exploratory factorial analysis made it possible to identify the main approaches to online public engagement.
Findings: There are 4 main dimensions of online public engagement that have been communicated on Italian websites (social, cultural, research and widening engagement), each referring to a specific target. A so-called “Cultural engagement” approach emerges which underlines the role of the university as a pole of cultural and artistic attraction.
Research limits: The research explores public engagement only in the Italian context. Although the article investigates more than 50% of the Italian universities, it does not allow the extension of the results to the reference population.
Practical implications: Research results contribute to the understanding of online public engagement and map the current uses of stakeholder engagement activities in the university context to date.
Originality of the paper: The research enriches the knowledge of the online public engagement construct thanks to the identification of a new dimension “Cultural engagement”, that had not yet emerged in international contexts.
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