Ethical Competencies and the Organizational Competency ‘Responsible University Social Innovation’: looking at new ways of understanding universities and the competency-based education model in the context of significant social changes in Latin America[*]

Javier Villar Olaeta[**]

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.18543/tjhe-4(2)-2017pp311-332

Abstract: Ethical competencies are included in all competency-based education models and are considered essential for the professional preparation of students, especially in terms of their professional conduct and workplace preparedness. As such, the Tuning Academy, along with incorporating ethical competencies in its group of generic competencies, also considers the organizational competency Responsible University Social Innovation (RUSI) as part of its Tuning ALFA II Latin América project. This competency, in the area of organizational character, addresses innovation in the context of social responsibility, which it assumes each university should have, in terms of ethical responsibility toward the members of a community. This concept incorporates the equal relationship between the university’s internal community and civil society. By means of interviews with experts in the areas of service-learning, social responsibility, and ethical civil and professional education from the University of Deusto and the Zerbikas Foundation, this article discusses the connection and implementation of both generic ethical competencies and the RUSI organizational competency in higher education in order to respond to the new challenges to professional training in today’s world, all of which ultimately assumes a change in universities’ understandings of themselves as institutions and the role of higher education in general.

Keywords: ethical competency; Responsible University Social Innovation; Tuning Latin America Project; service learning; higher education.

I. Introduction

In 2009, a report from The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO[1]) World Conference on Higher Education highlighted the significant challenges facing higher education in present times. Under the framework of the social responsibility of higher education, the report assumes in the first place that higher education is a public good and, as such, is the responsibility of all of society, especially governments.

The context of modern humanity demands the help of higher education to better understand multidimensional social problems and its example to holistically emphasize that which is most urgent, i.e. issues of food security, climate change, water management, intercultural dialogue, renewable energies, and public health.

To do so, the report calls on higher education institutions to promote interdisciplinary collaboration, critical thinking, and active citizenship, thereby contributing to the sustainable development, peace, and overall wellbeing of society, as well as making human rights — including gender equality — a reality.

In short, higher education must provide solid competencies for today’s world. And although the UNESCO report uses the word “also,” it is perhaps more appropriate to understand not simply in addition, but by means of these competencies, higher education must contribute to the formation of citizens who are equipped with ethical principles, committed to building peace, and unwavering in the defense of human rights and democratic values.

Common sense, along with the reality of humanity almost a decade after the initial UNESCO report and new understandings about the roles and practices of all types of organizations, makes us understand that this social responsibility is not merely an option but an essential requirement of universities and therefore is strategic for the survival of society and of the universities themselves. Thus, the challenge of universities is to integrate themselves and respond to the new requirements of the people and societies in which they live and serve.

This article will address the results of interviews and reflections with experts in the areas of social responsibility, social innovation, service learning, and professional and civil ethics from the University of Deusto in an attempt to understand the connections between the ethical conduct competency at Catholic University of Temuco, which is based on the Tuning model, and the Tuning organizational competency Responsible University Social Innovation (RUSI). Additionally, I will propose some ways of planning and developing these competencies, both concerning their comprehension as well as implementation, in the context of UNESCO’s requirements for higher education.

The source of this reflection and research is within Latin America. When considering the particular elements of Latin America as context for this research, one must also take into account the experience of the years of cooperation for the construction and implementation of a competency-based education model in Chile and throughout Latin America as indicators of Social Responsibility and Social Innovation. Along with the realities and challenges of the universities, this experience has revealed a glimpse of the world, and it directs us toward shared global spaces for the comprehension and definition of ethical competencies and, in general, toward the competency-based model both in and for a global world. It is for this reason that this model was chosen by UNESCO so that it might appreciate and propose new perspectives for further understanding concerning the needs and purposes of higher education. This manner of working makes it possible to recognize common models and purposes, even with consideration of differences among each local, national, and regional identity.

That being so, for the person who chooses the perspective of understanding through higher education, what can be understood as a mark of the Chilean and Latin American local identity in this global context? And what is the role of the academic community in this regard? Compared with the European model (since this work largely represents the context of the University of Deusto with whom we performed our research), could there be among the countries of the first world a historical awareness of colonial and economic subjugation? Could there be a coexistence which acknowledges the great historical debts which are owed to native peoples of non-Western cultural roots? And considering the great economic and material conditions of poverty which are shared among the continents of the Global South, could there be a call to action for social construction in which universities would collaborate as part of an intercultural society? Furthermore, could all of this extend from deliberate political, social, symbolic, and practical processes? These questions remain to be answered. For if not, we would be speaking of the same practices that today are happening more and more clearly in Europe concerning legal and illegal immigration, the crossing of cultures, and the immense pockets of poverty that have become embedded in the model of neoliberal financial speculation. That is to say, in this global world which is increasingly blurring not only physical borders but also those of our minds, rather that speaking of separated worlds, should we not speak about worlds within worlds and their interaction with each other?[2]

Critical approaches to competency-based models suggest that these are continuations of the neoliberal mentality and training models which consider the characteristics of professional training to cover essential market needs.[3]

Faced with these critical approaches, our proposal is that ethical competencies within a competency-based model, along with the proposal of an organizational competence centered on social innovation, take responsibility for the conception of a plan, along with the critical formative results, which is oriented towards justice and the common good. In this way, not only might market needs be solved, but human social needs as well, as we have described from UNESCO. Critics then assume a perspective of education which focuses on the practical wisdom that every person and society should have and which is oriented towards the practical achievement of a good life in and for others within just institutions.[4] (That is to say, our epistemological concept of competence (in terms of competent professionals and universities) corresponds to making intelligent practices and institutions that adequately respond to the permanent conflicts that occur in every society regarding the dynamics of the recognition of dignity, identity, and justice.[5]

II. The Social Responsibility of organizations

Beginning with discussions of corporate social responsibility, over the last 15 years the concept of social responsibility has come to the forefront of discussions concerning the moral responsibilities of organizations. Then, in 2010, multiple organizations led by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) proposed a certification standard, voluntary in nature, that in reality proposed a new type of organization: one that sustains the integral and unifying concept of social responsibility as the responsibility of organizations.[6]

An organization, then, must be understood as comprised of various dimensions whose socially responsible interactions rest on the respect and promotion of human rights and the environment. So then, how an organization is governed, its relationship with its consumers or users, its practices and processes of operation, its participation and development of the community, and its labor practices are part and parcel of the organization and its social responsibility.

From the creation to the consolidation of an approach toward social responsibility, it should be noted that this process has led to the conception of a new type of organization. This goes to show that in today’s world, there can be socially responsible organizations that have been conceived as something other than what has traditionally been considered an organization. We are talking about organizations ultimately as groups of people united by different interests in a permanent interaction with other social groups that make up a multifocal society which is structured in versatile solidarity. An innovative concept of a practical and social nature has generated a change in the traditional understanding of organizations, and in this case in particular, universities.-As Villa describes: “This action (CSR) results in the creation of new partnerships and new spheres for existing relationships (…) with respect to social dialogue, equal opportunities, anticipation and management of change; the protection of health, environmental protection and respect for fundamental rights.”[7]

A socially responsible university under this new organizational approach can be understood as a university that trains professionals and creates and manages knowledge from a holistic and comprehensive approach to its institutional structure and is organized around the solution of problems.

De la Cruz, Perua, and Vallaeys[8] propose a university based on four pillars: a responsible campus, professional and civil education, social participation, and the social management of knowledge based on a democratic and participative approach toward learning.

III. The Competency-based education model in Higher Education

Likewise with organizations, competency-based models in higher education are also educational innovations that direct these new organizational approaches and that construct an awareness which responds to society by generating new ways of understanding its identity as an institution of higher education and its integration into the society in which it exists.[9]

III.1. The Tuning Latin America Project and Responsible University Social Innovation

Initially, Tuning was an experience and creative achievement pertaining uniquely to European higher education. In 2003, it was extended to Latin America, and today the Deusto International Tuning Academy also has works in Africa and Asia.[10]

Its proposal in Latin America, based on a competency-based education model and through the participation of more than 200 mostly Latin American universities (though including some European universities as well), is characterized by the identification of in-common generic competencies in coordination with discipline-area/specific competencies in 15 areas of knowledge in the form of meta-profile professionals. And along with the creation of a system of transferable Latin-American credits which enable academic and student mobility, in 2011 a competency was created which was not only curricular but also organizational — the Responsible University Social Innovation (RUSI) competency — that was converted to the institutional component. This competency is strategic within the Tuning model for the identification of the university in its organizational and daily practices, all of which function in response to the challenges generated by society and the world.

Responsible University Social Innovation is an organizational competency which extends through substantive areas (teaching, research, development, and management) in order to transform and promote solutions to the challenges within a university’s social and global environment. These innovative responses to social and global problems are developed with the participation of the subjects and social participants, and with characteristics of speed, relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, and justice in order to prioritize values and social transformation.[11]

This definition was developed by the Alfa Group tunnig Project. Social innovation is defined as “new ideas (…) at the same time that can meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words, they are innovations that are good for society and improve the ability of society to act. Social innovation are practices and concepts such as service learning, social engagement, social entrepreneurship, care for the environment among others. Successful social innovation experiences are typical of the creativity of the poor to seek solutions to their difficult living conditions of communities; With the local government support, as well as actors outside the community; training and training of those directly involved in the project; and participation of the sectors in some cases empresarials.[12]

This definition supports at least two key elements:


• Emphasis on external factors: Social innovation in the university should contribute to the community. This requires clear information about the actual impact the university is having on its surroundings and its population by the actions carried out in the central operations of the university: social innovation in the curriculum, research, social development, and university management.

• Presents a commitment with respect to concrete social values: Both at an external and internal level, it presents a commitment to certain social and ecological areas and concerning specific groups in which it wants to contribute.


III.2. The competency of ethical conduct in the competency-based model

Ethical competencies are included in all classifications and proposals for all competency-based education models. They are considered essential to achieve a professional profile of excellence and therefore are defined as generic competencies, i.e. contributing to form the overall profile of all university professionals.

A competency-based model is considered an educational innovation because instead of a learning process based on subject-area content and traditional academic formats, it proposes a learning process based on competencies or abilities, since the main reason for professional education is that the graduate is capable of successfully performing the work which is expected of him/her as a professional.[13]

This means in the first place having a permanent connection with the social, economic, and labor environment in which the professional graduate will insert him/herself in order to begin defining those expected competencies for the professionals. It is worth mentioning that the greatest demands of society with respect to its professionals have to do with general and essential aspects such as capacity for teamwork, sociability, ability to continually adapt, management of information and complex contexts, improvement and criticism for continued advancement, and above all, the capacity to make good decisions that take care of the needs of all those affected and interested, along with the consequences of these actions on all levels. Obviously, one hopes that a professional would know the technical aspects of his/her work, but paradoxically, this knowledge is considered secondary because techniques change and evolve with new contexts. It is important, therefore, that a professional know how to learn continually, but if he/she does not have all of the previously mentioned characteristics, it will be difficult to actually be able to do it.

Therefore, it is the large competencies — that have to do with personal elements such as emotions, values, and attitudes — which are valued by society. As such, a good professional action in modern day is inconceivable without its implicit ethical or value-based component since the complex work contexts continually experience ethical dilemmas that challenge and evaluate any professional action itself.

Secondly, speaking of competencies raises the question of their educability. Can these competences be taught considering that we are talking about aspects or dimensions much more complex than teaching subject-area content? One positive response to this question, but which requires assuming responsibility for it, challenges us to seek favorable educational environments and significant inductive processes by which the students can connect with their emotions, their interiors, their identities, their values, and so forth.

We are also challenged to think that the participating professional educators are not only those in the university but all those interested and affected by the future actions of the professionals. Once again, we find that educational innovations demand institutional or organizational changes or harmonization. The competency-based education model demands a greater and more integrated interaction of the university with society in order to enable adequate training environments and processes. Furthermore, it demands adequate methodologies that perhaps exceed considering the classroom as the only formative environment and moving the hypothesis of such a framework to reality itself, where a professional should perform and be accountable for his/her professional performance. There develops a necessary and appropriate overlap between the educational space of the classroom — the predominately reflective and discursive space — and other social spaces where problems are addressed and connected with real participants in society and therefore with the professional’s own problems as well.

III.2.1. Ethical Competencies in the Tuning model

The first Tuning Latin America Project[14] identified several generic competencies that are related to the formation of professional ethics. They are as follows, listed here with their corresponding number of Tuning classification:


• 5 — Social responsibility and civic engagement

• 20 — Commitment to environmental preservation

• 21 — Commitment to socio-cultural

• 22 — Value and respect for diversity and multiculturalism

• 26 — Ethical commitment


The paradox here is that in a subsequent study realized in 160 Latin American universities evaluating the importance between the competencies, the first four ethical competencies were the worst evaluated of all the generic competencies in relation to their importance for higher education. Instead, ethical commitment was the highest evaluated of all of the generic competencies.[15]

This in itself indicates that there is a significant reductionist bias from what is considered the ethical dimension in the educational process and in professional profiles. However, even with this deficiency, it still verifies the essential nature that is given to the ethical profile for vocational training in higher education in the academic world and in the Latin American educational context. Further, it motivates us to continue delving into the reality of the competency and its role in shaping higher education in connection with Responsible University Social Innovation.

III.2.2. The Ethical Conduct Competency at Catholic University of Temuco

For the purposes of this research, I worked with the ethical conduct competency of Catholic University of Temuco, Chile, since the Tuning Latin America ethical competency(ies) simply identify the competency, while the universities are left to articulate and develop them within their curricula. This was the case with Catholic University of Temuco, which based its curricula on the Tuning Academy, among others, to define and develop its own competency of ethical conduct. The ethical conduct competency of Catholic University of Temuco is defined as follows:

Demonstrating an ethical reasoning based on the principles and values of justice, common good, and the absolute dignity of the human being, which translates to the attitudes and actions of responsible service toward the community and in response to her needs as a person, as a citizen and as a professional.

The main characteristics of the development of this competency are taken from an autonomous, responsible, and integral vision of the university incorporating in an integral form the different Tuning ethical competencies.

The competency, based on the education and practice of ethical discernment, grades its own performance of this process in the different stages of the curricula by the same logic as a the methodology of discernment. It starts with the processes of analysis, reflection, and comprehension of reality in order to continue to a critical reflection corresponding to the ethical framework. This establishes the moral values from a universal perspective and human rights perspective through the gradual practice of resolving challenging professional ethical dilemmas.[16]

It is from this relationship that the Tuning competency-based education model arises. It is a critical educational innovation within the scope of the entire world which came about only in the last 15 years. The fundamental role of ethical competencies and the building of the Tuning model of organizational competency RUSI in the context of organizational transformation in general and universities in particular is the object of this research. Furthermore, this research is intended to deepen the interactions of these competencies through analysis of the opinions of academic experts at the University of Deusto in areas related to social responsibility, ethical teaching, service learning, and social innovation in higher education. Finally, the article looks toward the visualization of current and future contributions which can respond to the aforementioned challenges of higher education.

The relevance of developing an understanding with scholars from the University of Deusto arose because this university participated in the Tuning Latin American Project, as a European partner university, in the creation of the RUSI competency and its evaluation model. As an European university aligned with the process of Bologna, it has a competency-based education model and similarly a generic ethical competency and innovative educational methodologies that account for new forms of understanding universities today in relation to their identities, missions, and links with society, as in service learning, to train their professionals. And it is also the university that hosts the overall Tuning Academy project.

With respect to its methodology, the research shows that all the work of construction and implementation of a competency-based educational model (which includes the definition of ethical-action competencies in general, a definition and implementation of ethical-action competencies in UC Temuco, and the construction of an ISUR organizational competency by the majority of Latin American universities) is the initial point of comparative contrast that a Latin American perspective brings to this research when attempting a dialogue with the experts from the University of Deusto. In reality, we could say that this work intends to validate these constructions made from Latin America, starting with their own experiences and points of view regarding their construction and correlation. Thus, the signal that distinguishes this research from among others is that it is understood from the global framework of identities and challenges of Higher Education. This idea maintains similarities with the epistemological possibilities in which the great ethical concepts of justice for social transformation and sustainable human development are understood.

So it is with respect to the formative role of professional ethics as we seek to understand the consciousness of a university that transforms itself to connect and respond to social challenges. For as the research shows, the relationship between ethical competencies such as that of UC Temuco and ISUR is connatural on the same comprehensive horizon in which they were constructed. Justice and sustainable human development are imperative in order to succeed in the task that facing universities: to build knowledge and train professionals for societies which demand new transformations, not only for the business market.

IV. Research results

IV.1. Research categories

Interviews of a mixed nature were held with University of Deusto scholars who are experts in topics such as social university responsibility, social innovation, ethical education, contextualized methodologies and experiences, and in particular, service learning in various areas:


• 9 Personal Interviews:

— Teaching and ethical research and social responsibility: 5 scholars

— Teaching and sociological and theological research: 1 scholar

— Teaching and service learning research: 2 scholars

— Educational innovation: 1 scholar

• 1 Group Interview: Teaching and research in service learning: 4 scholars

• 1 Seminar and discussion about service learning in the context of social innovation and the social responsibility of universities and in general: 13 scholars


The content of the interviews were organized around 5 major themes and were approximately one hour in duration. Prior to the interview, two documents with descriptions and explanations of both competencies were sent to participants by email.[17]


(1) Ethical Conduct Competency (ECC[18])

  Comprehension and opinion concerning the definition of the competency

(2) Organizational competency of Responsible University Social Innovation (RUSI[19])

  Comprehension and opinion concerning the definition of the competency

(3) Interconnectivity between both competencies

  Is interconnectivity between competencies possible?

  With respect to the topic?

  With respect to implementation?

(4) Contributions and suggestions


The interviews made it possible to highlight various categories that became the axis of the information required from the areas addressed to investigate the ECC and RUSI competency and that made it possible to group the diverse opinions of the respondents.



 • Conceptual and comprehensive relevance

 • Institutional identity and coherence

 • Justice and social transformation

 • Social responsibility of universities



 • Conceptual and comprehensive relevance

 • Integration with the university education model

 • Education for justice and social transformation



 • The complementary relationship between RUSI and ECC for the practical purposes of both

 • The relationship between the university and social contexts

 • The relevance of service learning as a synergistic methodology, harmonious with its coordinated implementation of both competencies



 • The capacity for university transformation

 • Proposals for curricular connection

IV.2. Descriptions of the results by category




• Conceptual and comprehensive relevance of RUSI

The majority considered that the RUSI competency is accurate, understandable, difficult yet possible to implement, and relevant for universities. Their comments were as follows: “It is a utopian horizon — difficult, but not impossible. It is more successful than other focuses.” “The RUSI is a new paradigm.” “Its definition is cumbersome, wordy as all in academia, but its spirit is good.” “It is oriented and focused toward those specifically affected: the poor.”[20]


• Institutional identity and coherence

This category is in response to the link of the RUSI competency with institutional identity and its coherence, both practical and theoretical. This competency, in all interviews, is identified with the coherence of being a university. The finalizing of the responses regarding the perceived link between identity and consistency with the competence were explained in various ways and were overall positive: “It gives a coherence with the identity of the university.” “The RUSI makes it that the university can more ethically educate, which is its work and should be carried out as a university.” “It requires a clear choice of the university with respect to its social transformation.” “The university already in itself is transformative of young people.” “With competencies such as RUSI, the university further identifies itself.” Additionally, it is considered perfecting of a competency-based model like we have in Deusto and in Temuco: “It is a good and novel approach to think of a competency-based model.”

A minority manifested a critical opinion of RUSI in two directions. First, it was critical in relation to what is achieved regarding the university: “Its integration with the institutional model is weak and does not take responsibility for the plurality of the university as such.” Secondly, it is a very generic and neutral competency in its definition with respect to the central participants of social innovation, which are the poor — or in this case, the victims: “RUSI is interesting as a whole but is very generic […] It specifically lacks the poor, who are better described as ‘the victims.’”


• Justice and social transformation

All the interviews coincide concerning the connection between the RUSI competency and the search for justice and social transformation. That is to say, a university should seek to transform society towards greater justice and social equality.

The answers are divided as to whether a university ought to have as its own choice — as part of its identity — the cause of social transformation of not. Rather, a majority of the respondents considered that it should be declared intentionally as a purpose of the university. As such, the RUSI would help to better bring about this social transformation: “It is important to see how the university is organized so that from a priority of justice — though it also could be that of social innovation — it is identified more with the university itself. It is a matter of sense.” “A competency as such requires being able to identify, for example, the injustices, in direct collaboration with them (the poor).”

Some respondents consider that social transformation is an implicit role of the university and that RUSI should be able to specifically improve the university’s actions and direct the university’s own innovative processes, saying: “The university is always innovating. RUSI is the possibility of a university to lead these innovations through justice and social transformation.” Additionally, one respondent affirmed “the importance of service learning and the approach of social innovation to reposition the formation of citizens in the educational work.” Furthermore, “RUSI [is useful] to attain levels of social justice, equality, and recognition of others in the processes of social innovation.”


• Social responsibility of universities

This category speaks to the relationship that the respondents gave to the RUSI competency with respect to the social responsibility of universities and its use for institutions. The majority considered that the concept of the social responsibility of universities already has many of the ideas raised by the RUSI, but they consider that there traditionally has been a perversion or manipulation of the phrase through marketing and simple social welfare so that today the the phrase is associated with the cover-up of selfish and materialistic practices of organizations. That could equally happen to the RUSI competency. In general, they agree that RUSI will improve the approach to the social responsibility of universities: “The RUSI orients the SRU [social responsibility of universities] toward the ‘affected’ or ‘specified stakeholders.’” “The RUSI can be an important incentive for universities with the risk that it could be perverted by misuse, marketing, banners, and medals that have generated skeptical resistance to the truth of it.” “One must fight in order to not confuse RUSI with Christian morality.”




• Conceptual and comprehensive relevance

All respondents agreed that to understand and to value the comprehensive nature of the competency is not without its challenges: “It is understandable and simple in its definition and implementation.” “The ECC is understandable but difficult to be proven in external instances from the university.” A minority expressed concerns that the ECC does not reflect the civic dimension of professional ethics training in its proficiency levels or criteria.


• Integration in the university education model

This category responds to the coherence that the respondents required of the ethical conduct competency within the competency-based education model. In this respect, the majority opinion is that it is identified as a strength since it responds to both the model and the identity of the university regarding its mission and vision: “It is a strength of the competency in the context of the model and the social responsibility of the university.” “It is integrated with the model and the identity of the university as with its mission and vision.”

A minority considered that the competency-based model makes the ECC unable to evaluate the internal intentions or convictions of a university, instead focusing on visible and evaluable performances: “We can well evaluate the field of knowledge, partly the field of conduct in the unique space that we we know, which is the classroom; however, we cannot evaluate intentions or convictions — the interior character.”


• Education for justice and social transformation

Most respondents agreed that the ethical conduct competency was defined, as its meaning was to educate for the sake of justice and social transformation. But they specifically considered the difficulty of this work within the complex reality of universities, reflected in the ethical tensions within society itself: “There is an ethical tension between an ethic of minimums and maximums that should be faced from the ethical conduct competency.” “It is uncomfortable, including for students, to understand the ethical formation of a citizen in their professional formation.” “The ethical conduct competency helps this dynamic of direction and social transformation toward justice.”




• The complementary relationship between RUSI and ECC for practical purposes of both

All of the respondents reiterated the relationship and relevance of the ECC and the RUSI competency. As the RUSI addresses organizational character, it would assess and orient the ECC toward a educational nature. And conversely, the ECC would help to finalize the practical claims of RUSI in the field of educational ethics, which is fundamental as part of the world of the university, and it assumes a different view from that which society considers as professional and oriented toward promoting social justice. However, both must be intentional for their connection. This does not mean that all the respondents considered that their implementation would be very difficult in practice: “Its connection and implementation is reasonable.” “It is oriented to the graduate profile.” “The RUSI is what can help make ethical learning intentional, which is more contextual than simply the actions of a particular teacher.” “A connection between [RUSI and ECC] is possible but it must be intentional. They can exist separately.” “The RUSI assesses the ECC and questions the traditional concept of being a professional.” “The ECC is a forge of character and autonomy, and the RUSI promotes public spaces with experience of freedom and solidarity.” “It invites professional perspectives to identify injustice from its formative process in ethical discernment.” “We move in the context of instrumental rationality and calculation, and this would hinder the implementation of RUSI and ECC.”


• The relationship between the university and social context

For the connection and implementation of both competencies, we must highlight as an essential element the form of learning within the university and how it puts into practice its link with society. This is assessed and transformed by the RUSI competency in connection with the ECC, particularly when compared to a traditional vision of the relationship between the university and its environment, which is to say, typically unidirectional and with no intention of allowing itself to be changed: “The university should be capable of appreciating and considering the knowledge of global social movements, even popular culture, which is the aim of RUSI.” “RUSI [aims] to build conditions of peace or alternative social spaces.” “A dialogue with society, with these non-functioning groups, which is open and respectful.” “The RUSI and the ECC [aim] to form and recover the civic competency in the university.”


• The relevance of service learning as a synergistic methodology, harmonious with its coordinated implementation of both competencies

The majority of respondents considered methodologies innovative which connect the students and the university with people and social problems. They emphasized the methodology of service learning as one of the most appropriate in the coordinated implementation of the ECC and the RUSI competency — something that was already considered by those who worked with one another or even separately: “Service learning is a methodology that would ensure better joint implementation of both.” “The formation of professionals that could be formed in this direction to be social innovators.” “Service learning is a form that would help it be better integrated in the curriculum.”




• The capacity for university transformation

In this category, which sums up very well what is the essential orientation of the RUSI competency, the capacity for transformation of the university itself is valued and questioned at the same time by the respondents. In this sense, the majority of the respondents reaffirmed the resistance and difficulties that would result from the implementation of these competencies in the current university context. Additionally, they offered various common suggestions: “The role of the university professor must be transformed, influencing him in social innovation training.” “The practicums within the areas of study is a significant space if it falls in the area of service learning.” “The university would not easily accept this focus on social innovation.” “The weight of the institution will make transformation difficult, and it would only be unidirectional towards other social groups, as always.” “It would have internal and external resistance in its implementation and coordination.” “It is necessary to enable liberty and dissent within a university.”


• Proposals for curricular coordination

The respondents suggested various initiatives on the way toward developing “friendly cities and juridic clinics [in legal training].” “The juridical clinics are another example of educationally well-intentioned social innovation working toward the professional training in the dynamic of service learning.” “An example of social innovation is the Fiare Banca Ethica, which has participating scholars from the University of Deusto.”

V. Conclusions

V.1. Interpretation of Results

The results of the interviews corroborate the context and the organizational and social trends that contextualize and challenge the ECC and RUSI competency. Both competencies require and themselves generate new organizational forms of higher education that presently are being formed in order to attune themselves to the social demands toward higher education, as previously discussed in this article, which demand profound changes in a university’s understanding of its connection and integration with society. This extends from the production and management of knowledge to the scholar’s role in the model and the processes of development, and it reflects a constant demand for the university to orient itself toward sustainability and participation and to assume an integral role in the social, cultural, political, and economic aspects of society. In terms of problem solving, the orientation must be toward social transformation, resulting in a society more just and beneficial for all.

Likewise, according to the interviewees, it reinforces the epistemological and educational suppositions that occurred in the formation and development of both competencies and the fundamental relationship that exists between them. The innovative educational character of the competency-based model is emphasized instead of an organizational competency.

Research shows that the Tuning model — in its attempt to build a unique, continental space for higher education for Latin America — is innovative and socially responsible because it integrates and articulates its profiles and curricula from the axis of the ECC and RUSI competency, as in the case of Catholic University of Temuco. These two competencies would thus become the soul of the project, as they are competencies that incorporate the senses along with the existential and social purposes, thus demonstrating a comprehensive and coherent image of the transformative role of education on the individual and on society at large. This is, in reality, more faithful to the traditional images of the critical and constructive role of academia in the world since the early creation of universities.

Research results, always according to the categories raised since the interviews, also show the relationship between both competencies in their implementation with service learning methodology. Resulting from a formative process, this methodology integrates the various dimensions which are considered essential in society and institutional and educational organizations, as emphasized in this article.

And finally, from the same answers of the interviewees, this goes to show how in current university models — still more of a traditional rather than innovative nature — comprehension and implementation of both competencies, including in a competency-based education model, result in low identification and resistance, explicit and inert, within university institutions. In relation to these findings, which mostly stem from interviews, one concludes the importance of promoting the organizational and cultural changes necessary for the effective comprehension and implementation of both competencies from the base of a permanent presence and permanent relational work. A prophetic minority, as economist Zamagni suggested to explain that major changes occur in groups that, although small, are confident, persevering, and seek dialogue. Achieving this was about Christian social and cultural transformations, without which it is very difficult to change individual practices.[21] To this, all have added the importance of producing evidence of improved educational and institutional results in order to identify and convince all of the key participants, not only the university authorities. And this includes increasing the initial research capacity and processes addressing the impacts of these results: for example, of how service learning achieves professional profiles, of the improvement of social welfare from collaborative work in the processes of social innovation, of satisfaction indicators from students, community partners, and practicum institutions, etc.

V.2. Proposals for future work and research

With the results of this research and their important future consideration we want to project next steps which will translate into new lines of research and operational work proposals. The proposals are as follows:


(1) To investigate the relevance of improving the comprehension and reasoning of ethical competencies and RUSI, whether in the Tuning model or in models with similar competencies, in social and university contexts which are increasingly more intercultural. This could be done through the narrative rationale which is based on the philosophical and anthropological understanding of a person as an essentially narrative being. Ultimately, this would promote a better foundation and understanding of both the educational model and the competencies themselves in their definitions and articulation for Latin America and the world in general. This is due to the existing cultural diversity and the awareness that the processes of identification, and social processes in general, are more linked with such rationale; yet, in this globalized world, it is in conflict with the strategic, logical rationale of a more Western character and hegemony.

(2) Starting from the aforementioned base, to develop a simplified RUSI evaluation model which corresponds to the competency. This seems necessary due to the previous model’s complexity and apparent difficulty in the initial measurements that were performed.

(3) To invite the Tuning Academy to deepen its understanding and connection of the RUSI competency in the construction of professional meta-profiles in the Tuning model, along with curricula, teaching, and evaluation implementation.

(4) Similarly, to invite the Tuning Academy to create a Tuning center for reflection and research for Latin America in the areas of ethics and social innovation. This would help establish an alliance with other Latin American universities and would research and propose ways of education as well as report on the impacts of the ethical scope and social innovation of universities. In the same line as in Europe proposed by the Social Innovation Challenge.[22]


The process of social innovation is necessary in all areas of social life, yet it requires a collaborative work that poses a challenge to conventional priorities and requires humility on everyone’s part to ultimately understand that the whole is greater that the sum of its parts. We need to change attitudes, generate mutual confidence, and start with important but not overly complex projects that involve the majority of the parties whose reflection and joint work would be an achievement and example to the citizens and all institutions of a country.[23]


Boisier, Guy. “Modelos de gestión universitaria en un contexto de desarrollo regional.” 2010. Accessed April 20, 2016. https://es.scribd.com/doc/309627379/Boisier-Guy-nd-Modelos-de-gestion-universitaria-en-un-contexto-de-desarrollo-regional.

Castells, Manuel. “La edad de la información.” Sociedad y Cultura, no. 3 (2006): 188-191.

ISO.ISO 26000-Social responsibility.” (2014). Accessed February 5, 2016. https://www.iso.org/iso-26000-social-responsibility.html.

Deusto Tuning Academy. “Tuning Latin America Project 2004-2008.” (2010). Accessed April 5, 2016. http://tuning.unideusto.org/tuningal.

Moreno, Prudenciano, and Gabriela Soto. “Una mirada reflexiva crítica al enfoque por competencias.” Educar, October - December (2005): 73-79.

Ricoeur, Paul. Si mismo como otro. México: siglo XXI, 2006.

———. Caminos del reconocimiento: tres ensayos. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006.

Universidad Católica de Temuco. Competencias genéricas para la formación integral de los profesionales. Temuco: Ediciones Uc Temuco, 2013. Accessed April 25, 2016. http://www.cedid.uct.cl/img/info8/ModeloEducativoUCT%20(1)_3_20140829222942.pdf.

Unesco. “World Conference on Higher Education 2009. Final Report.” (2010). Accessed April 20, 2016. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001892/189242e.pdf.

Villa, Aurelio, trans. Un modelo de evaluación de la innovación social universitaria responsable. Bilbao: Universidad de Deusto, 2013.

———. “La innovación social en el ámbito universitario. Una propuesta para su diagnóstico y desarrollo.” RAES, revista argentina de educación superior, no. 8 (2014): 188-218.

Valleys, Francois, Cristina De la Cruz, and Peru Sasía. Responsabilidad social universitaria. Manual de primeros pasos. Mexico: Mcgraw-Hill editores, 2009.

Zamagni, Stefano. “Ethical Challenges in university teaching and research of the economy.” Paper presented at a seminar at the Centre for Applied Ethics of the University of Deusto, Bilbao (Spain), February 4, 2016.

[*] This work was carried out at Deusto International Tuning Academy (DITA) at the University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain; and was financially supported by DITA Short-Term Visit Scholarship (http://tuningacademy.org/short-term-visits-call/) and Catholic University of Temuco (Chile).

[**] Javier Villar (jvillar@uct.cl) is professor at Catholic University of Temuco (Chile), where he teaches professional ethics courses for various areas and careers. More details are at the end of this article.

[1] Unesco, “World Conference on Higher Education 2009. Final Report,” (2010), accessed April 20, 2016, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001892/189242e.pdf.

[2] Manuel Castells, “La edad de la información,” Sociedad y Cultura” no. 3 (2006): 188-191.

[3] Prudenciano Moreno and Gabriela Soto, “Una mirada reflexiva crítica al enfoque por competencias,” Educar, October - December (2005): 73-79.

[4] Paul Ricoeur, Si mismo como otro (México: siglo XXI, 2006).

[5] Paul Ricoeur, Caminos del reconocimiento: tres ensayos (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006).

[6] ISO, “ISO 26000-Social responsibility,” (2014), accessed February 5, 2016, https://www.iso.org/iso-26000-social-responsibility.html.

[7] Aurelio Villa, trans., Un modelo de evaluación de la innovación social universitaria responsable (Bilbao: Universidad de Deusto, 2013), 92.

[8] Francois Valleys, Cristina de la Cruz, and Peru Sasía, Responsabilidad social universitaria. Manual de primeros pasos (Mexico: Mcgraw-Hill editores, 2009).

[9] Aurelio Villa, trans., Un modelo de evaluación de la innovación social universitaria responsable, 97.

[10] Deusto Tuning Academy, “Tuning Latin America Project 2004-2008,” (2010), accessed April 5, 2016, http://tuning.unideusto.org/tuningal/.

[11] Aurelio Villa, trans., Un modelo de evaluación de la innovación social universitaria responsable, 104.

[12] Aurelio Villa, trans., Un modelo de evaluación de la innovación social universitaria responsable, 92.

[13] Universidad Católica de Temuco, Competencias genéricas para la formación integral de los profesionales (Temuco: Ediciones Uc Temuco, 2013), accessed April 25, 2016, http://www.cedid.uct.cl/img/info8/ModeloEducativoUCT%20(1)_3_20140829222942.pdf.

[14] Deusto Tuning Academy, “Tuning Latin America Project 2004-2008,” (2010), accessed April 5, 2016, http://tuning.unideusto.org/tuningal.

[15] Deusto Tuning Academy, “Tuning Latin America Project 2004-2008,” (2010), accessed April 5, 2016, http://tuning.unideusto.org/tuningal.

[16] Universidad Católica de Temuco, Competencias genéricas para la formación integral de los profesionales (Temuco: Ediciones Uc Temuco, 2013), accessed April25 ,2016. http://www.cedid.uct.cl/img/info8/ModeloEducativoUCT%20(1)_3_20140829222942.pdf.

[17] Documents made by the author of the internal character to the center of ethics and social responsibility of UC Temuco.

[18] In Spanish, Competencia de Actuación Ética (CAE).

[19] In Spanish, Competencia organizational de Innovación Social Universitaria Responsable (ISUR).

[20] The literal citation quoted statements are a ratio of respondents who serve to substantiate the claims of the article and in turn serve to reflect the tenor of most of the interviews on the subject concerned. Levels of similarity in these responses on all items are of about 98%.

[21] Stefano Zamagni, “Ethical Challenges in university teaching and research of the economy” (paper presented at a seminar at the Centre for Applied Ethics of the University of Deusto, Bilbao (Spain), February 4, 2016).

[22] Vienna Declaration,” (2011), accessed March 18, http://www.socialinnovation2011.eu/.

[23] Aurelio Villa, “La innovación social en el ámbito universitario. Una propuesta para su diagnóstico y desarrollo,” 218.

About the autor

JAVIER VILLAR (jvillar@uct.cl) is professor at Catholic University of Temuco, where he teaches professional ethics courses for various areas and careers. He is a researcher working cooperatively in the area of social innovation for Alfa Tuning II Latin America Project. His research focuses on issues of social responsibility and ethics for higher education. He is from the Basque Country (Spain). He lives in Chile since 1996. He was director of Ethical and Social Responsibility Center John Paul II between 2006 and 2012. He was collaborator of Construye País Proyect, focused on University Social Responsibility between 2001 and 2012. He was coordinator and collaborator of Social Agency of Araucanía, focused on Social Development, public and private policies to combat poverty in La Araucanía Region between 2003 and 2008. He is theologian, Magister in Ethical Social and Human Development and Magister in Religious and Philosophical Sciences. And finally, he was member of the Superior Council of Catholic University of Temuco between 2013 and 2015. This Superior Council is the principal governing organ of the university.




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