This study examined the motives underpinning involvement in community engagement by academics. The broader context of the study is the idea of universities as actors for and contributors to the public good, especially through community engagement. Engaging with communities is associated with the historical social mandate of universities, and is generally framed as a way through which universities participate in addressing pressing social, economic, and moral challenges that confront communities and society at large. However, as illustrated in this study, university-community engagement is also being framed in ways which, though not necessarily antithetical to the pursuit of the public good, treat it as an occasional, peripheral, ‘add on’ activity, geared towards advancing the private interests and benefits of academics. The study illustrates this framing and practice using a case study of community engagement in an African university. The study highlights transactional forms of community engagement, which are at odds with its transformative potential with respect to the public good. We argue that for university-community engagement to become an effective mechanism for advancing the public good, there is a need for universities, and individual academics, to rethink the undergirding principles and values of community engagement and put in place the requisite institutional support to drive community engagement as an institutionalised practice, towards genuine engagement with communities.