The purpose of the study was to explore researcher experiences of community engagement as part of a long-term higher education community engagement (HECE) partnership with rural schools. The theoretical framework that guided the study was grounded in the construct global citizenship. The instrumental case design followed the qualitative approach from a constructivist epistemology. Semi-structured questionnaires were used for data collection with purposively sampled researchers (n=16), comprising male (n=3) and female (n=13) researchers, including local (n=14) and international (n=2) researchers, who completed their research in the conveniently sampled HECE project. Following thematic analysis, two main themes emerged, namely: researcher perspectives on capacity development in higher education community engagement, and researcher perspectives on higher education community engagement as a core function of higher education institutions. Findings indicated, from researchers’ perspectives, that HECE benefits from collaborative partnerships, and that researchers have opportunities for personal and professional development. Researchers felt that such capacity development was necessary to ensure project sustainability. According to researchers, HECE project challenges or barriers need to be addressed to ensure project sustainability. Higher education requires a community engagement policy that guides the establishment of platforms for knowledge generation, human capacity development and collaborative partnerships in order that the core functions of higher education institutions could be performed.