Education has become an indespensable tool for development. However, higher education institutions must change to reflect the complex interplay of society dynamics, to which they belong and which themselves are constantly changing. The university in the twenty first century is envisioned to be a well resourced university which has close ties with the community, and consequently be in position to resolve major societal challenges. This calls for full engagement of both the university and the community. Additionally, it is increasingly becoming common understanding, at least internationally, that the relevance of university education to the society requires to be enhanced through proactive partnerships and interactions than has been before.
This study considered the perceptions of both internal and external university actors on the Makerere university‟s socio-economic contribution to the community, specifically within which the university is located. A questionnaire sent through emails to respondents was used for data collection. Whereas questionnaires are quantitative data collection instruments, in this study they are applied in-so-far as distribution, how they were responded to and data collection are concerned. However, analysis, interpretation and presentation was qualitative in nature. The study chose Makerere university as a case given its history of its existance. In addition, the university is considered due to the importance the government attaches to it as a prime public institution and its focus on the needs of the society through teaching and research. Respondents in this study were chosen from four faculties that attract much funding for their projects related to community needs. The framework of analysis for this study attempted to explain the connection between university functions and the community, and how they contribute to the general wellbeing of the society through various university activities. Findings suggest that Makerere university is increasingly becoming relevant through its teaching and research functions, which work to form a „third role‟ of the university - community service. This is reflected in the activities in which the university participates as it moves to create a university-community linkage. Consequent to the above is that its socio-economic contribution is dependent on how well its functions of teaching and research are effected to produce results in accordance with its stated mission and vision.
Keywords: socio-economic development; Makerere university; higher education; wellbeing; internal actors; external actors; public-private partnerships