In earlier work we introduced two concepts as mechanisms for universities to engage with their regional communities within a framework of achievement and moral and ethical responsibility. This work was stimulated by two trends in the Australian context; the growing disparity in regional outcomes, particularly human capital, in light of national growth; and the regionalisation (and parallel corporatisation) of higher education. The two concepts: ‘enterprising human capital’ and ‘sp-ethics’ (Garlick et al 2007, Taylor et al 2008, Garlick and Palmer 2008) provide a framework built around the realisation of the enterprising abilities of individuals in communities within a supportive regional milieu. Universities will be an active participant in this through their core business of learning, in ways that also embrace moral and ethical concerns for the common good. In the light of Sen’s (1985, 2009) capability approach, embodying freedom of choice, opportunity, social justice and economic gain, are these two mechanisms, when taken together, enough to tackle problematic regional human capital trends and a worthwhile engagement agenda for universities that benefits both the individual and wider regional goals, or does the capability approach have something additional to offer? The paper first outlines the nature of the spatial problem and the human capital implications that underlie it, using temporal Australian data over two decades. It discusses the capability approach and the concepts of enterprising human capital and sp-ethics as mechanisms to address the spatial human capital problem. The role of the university in its engagement with the normative individual, and the region, as a supportive milieu is then discussed as a means of enabling greater opportunity achievement on a regional scale. The paper draws two conclusions about enhancing human capital outcomes in the region that involve a role for the university. Firstly, the capability approach may need to explicitly consider attachment to place as an exogenous non-cognitive mechanism consistent with common good goals and, in this spatial sense, it may need to be more explicit about the role of regional agencies associated with learning, such as the university. Secondly, both ‘enterprising human capital’ and ‘spethics’ may need to explicitly consider the role of particular cognitive and non-cognitive factors, especially as they relate to younger people.
2010 AUCEA National Conference. 2010 AUCEA National Conference: Communities, Participation & Partnership: Conference Proceedings (Launceston, Tas. 5-7 July, 2010) p. 285-298