University’s role in reaching out to the larger public

By Aznan Mat Piah

Academicians should not see their role as being confined to their institution or university alone but should instead look beyond as producers and managers of knowledge to readily share their accomplishment and expertise to the benefit of the larger community outside the campus.

While many academics would agree and are pretty aware of such responsibility, the issue is how they could enhance their social commitment and educational roles more effectively to shape certain thinking or ideas to win confidence and commitment of the community.

Using the media and communication platforms whether mainstream media, digital or social media channels would be considered the most effective means or approach to have a wider outreach to the target groups.

It is in this context that the recently set-up Communication and Media Committee of the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences (KIRKHS) met last Friday (20 November) to discuss and chart what could be done by the academics to shape the values and thinking of professional community and the public in general or in trying to influence the government and its institutions in terms of public policy.

Such effort would go a long way not just to benefit the community in terms of public engagement and education, but to get the views of scholars and academics properly communicated to the public that could further enhance the visibility of the institution and its roles to the different communities.

In doing so, it is important for the views of the academics to be heard and positively communicated in layman’s language to help create awareness and in soliciting feedback to contribute towards nation building.

Admittedly, it is a known fact that the university has voluminous of resources in terms of academic research values which have been published in a number of leading or known academic journals of the world, but those are useful in as far as fulfilling the intellectual role to meet the needs of the learning and the learned communities.

How many would pay attention to serious journal articles compared to journalistic materials in the form of commentaries, feature articles, letters or opinion pieces published in mainstream newspapers and news portals or even web sites? The obvious choice for the public in general would be the media or medium that are communicated in the language that are more comprehensible and easily understood by all.

The journal articles would therefore remain in the academic journals or just lying idle on the shelves of cabinets in libraries if initiatives are not taken forcefully for ideas and findings to be extracted, presented or shared widely to the public.

Undoubtedly, the university also has a role in reaching out to other important categories of publics such as the industry and / or professional community apart from the general public. The language constructed in any form of communication channels should not be the kind of jargon that suits specific audience, devoid from the reality of making it simplified to be easily understood by the general public.

Herein lies the significance of journalistic skills with ability to digest and critically analyse those findings from the research to be constructed or reconstructed and shared on media platforms.

The idea is for the target publics to form a positive impression or be guided on latest information and development that would help shape public opinion on current matters or issues of public concern.

In short, it is in the context of media culture practice or the culture of using the media that the academics should be acquainted with and encouraged to undertake. Which means simply the acquiring of such journalistic writing skills and using the expertise to translate the knowledge resources into useful messages to effectively communicate their views, stands or positions for immediate public consumption.

This move should be regarded as an important aspect in community engagement which the public would very much welcome from a university or educational institution, given its readiness to inject new perspectives and fresh ideas to educate and influence the audience’s perspectives in their action and decision making process.

Hence, if this effort is carried out consistently, the university would stand to be more visible in terms of knowledge sharing and in creating a favourable scholarship environment, thereby contributing to a cascading effect on the larger society. ***

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